Reducing both the personal and community burden of stroke is a primary driver of the AVERT Early Intervention Research Program. We develop and test exercise and rehabilitation based interventions in people with stroke, with a particular focus on very early commencement of training. At the core of our research program is the largest international randomised controlled trial of very early rehabilitation (AVERT Phase III) ever conducted in stroke.  In addition to studying the efficacy and  cost effectiveness of interventions, we are also interested in understanding the potential mechanisms of exercise based rehabilitation interventions, working out when is the best time to start interventions to promote brain recovery and how best to prevent or reduce the often debilitating secondary effects of stroke.

Key themes of work, and the theme leaders in our group include:

Complex interventions in acute stroke:  Dr Julie Luker

Dr Luker’s post-doctoral research focuses on the implementation of complex interventions within acute stroke settings. She is a physiotherapist with extensive clinical experience in the field of stroke management and interdisciplinary models of team based care. She is actively involved in stroke service planning, clinical guideline development and implementation at national and state levels. Her PhD research explored factors that influence the quality of acute stroke care provided by allied health professionals, and she currently holds a part-time NHMRC postdoctoral fellowship to further explore the implementation of early stroke rehabilitation within acute stroke units.

Physical activity and sedentary behaviours:  Associate Professor Coralie English

Dr English is interested in the role physical activity has in both maximising recovery from stroke and in primary and secondary stroke prevention. To that end, her research has focussed on finding effective ways to reduce sedentary time and maximise physical activity in hospital and rehabilitation settings. For people later after stroke, she is particularly interested in the relationship between sedentary behaviours (sitting and lying down), physical activity and health outcomes. Dr English has expertise in objective activity monitoring (such as accelerometry) as well as self-report use of time tools, and Motivational Interviewing as an intervention. She is an associate Professor of Physiotherapy at the University of Newcastle/Hunter Medical Research Institute and Snr Research Affiliate with the Centre for Research Excellence

Exercise, cognition and mood:  Dr Toby Cumming

Dr Cumming’s primary interests are cognitive impairment, mood disorder and fatigue after stroke, and whether physical activity can help to reduce these problems. Understanding changes that take place in the acute stage of stroke (within the first two weeks) is a focus of his research. He is also conducting research into whether exercise might be related to changes in brain structure and function following stroke. He has expertise in activity monitoring, neuropsychological testing, assessment of mood disorders and statistical analysis. Dr Cumming is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Stroke Division at the Florey.

Exercise Physiology:  Dr Liam Johnson

Dr Johnson’s research is focused on establishing a safe and efficacious exercise-training model that will promote recovery, improve cardiovascular health and quality of life after stroke. His research in assessing how exercise capacity changes over time after stroke will inform the development of exercise training guidelines to accelerate recovery, enhance motor function and reduce the disability experienced post-stroke. Dr Johnson has expertise in exercise testing and prescription in clinical populations and balance testing, and is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Stroke Division at the Florey.

The following major projects are a part of the AVERT program:


Enquiries about AVERT can be directed to the Program Leader, Professor Julie Bernhardt at