Project Lead

Professor Amy Brodtmann

Lead partner

The University of Melbourne


Austin Health; Florey Institute; Melbourne Health; Western Health

There are no current therapies to prevent post-stroke dementia. Exercise may prevent cognitive decline and brain volume loss after stroke, possibly via its positive effects on microbiome composition.  In the Post Ischaemic Stroke Cardiovascular Exercise Study (PISCES), we will examine whether an 8-week cardiac-rehabilitation style exercise intervention will preserve brain volume and cognition in 100 stroke participants within the first 12 months post-stroke.

We will initiate sample storage for a stroke biobank. Blood samples will be collected at three time-points (before and after the intervention, and at 12 months post-stroke) for biomarker analyses, and a stool sample at one time-point so we can analyse the entire microbiome. This will allow us to examine relationships between inflammatory markers in serum (blood), genetic factors (blood, stool), and microbiome composition (stool) and cognitive and brain volumetric outcomes at 12 months post-stroke.

Our goal is to identify genetic and protein markers for post-stroke cognitive decline. The numbers within PISCES limit the description of definitive gene-behaviour associations; however, participation in larger consortia will allow greater power.


This project is supported by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) as part of the Rapid Applied Research Translation program.

The assembly of a stroke genetic biobank with both blood and microbiome samples will allow for pooled analyses among research groups in Australia and internationally. With greater power to examine gene-behaviour relationships, we may be able to identify risk factors for post-stroke cognitive and brain volume decline, and ultimately, dementia.

We have developed a safe and accessible home-based method of delivering exercise to people following stroke. We have identified barriers to recruitment and strategies to improve participation in post-stroke exercise trials. We have established a world-first stroke biobank including blood, brain images and microbiome samples.

Hung SH, Ebaid D, Kramer S, et al. Pre-stroke physical activity and admission stroke severity: A systematic review. International Journal of Stroke. February 2021. doi:10.1177/1747493021995271