Research Areas

Complementary and Integrative Health (CIH) in the East-West Context

We are an interdisciplinary group with a diverse background in rehabilitation and biomedical sciences. Drawing on our experiences in eastern and western approaches in rehabilitative care, we aim to integrate the best of both approaches to promote mental and physical well-being – from perinatal and child development to end-of-life care. The patient is at the centre of our research that addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences affecting a person’s health. The unique mix of cultural diversity in Hong Kong has fostered the ‘east-meets-west’ research initiative in our department. Over the past three decades, this crosscutting research has led to the promotion and incorporation of Tai Chi, Qigong and acupuncture in the health care system for diverse diseases, conditions and populations. Sensitivity to cultural differences between east and west in clinical practice and health promotion underlies our efforts to identify and characterize the social and environmental factors involved. This is important in all aspects of rehabilitative practice — from psychotherapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, to lifestyle modification. The aim — tailored to the affected individuals — is to instil resilience through behavioural and cognitive changes/skills to eliminate or minimize exposure to health risk. Our groups also strive for a biological understanding of the underlying process, recognized as a major roadblock to more effective and widespread application of complementary and integrative health care. Animal and cell models are developed to study the cause and progression of mental and physical disabilities in both disease and recovery through the incorporation of genetic, environmental and social perspectives. Such translational research dissects the interaction between the nervous, immune and metabolic systems, identifying synergism between therapeutic interventions (including drug therapy), and the discovery of novel biomarkers and risk factors for early diagnosis and monitoring.

Our Missions

To be the local hub of scientific research in complementary and integrative practice in rehabilitation.
To encourage regional and international collaboration through databases, colloquium and workshops.
To enhance individuals’ ability to get well and stay well through public awareness and improved access to evidence-based complementary practice.
To influence whole-person health care of body, mind, spirit and community.

Translational Neuroscience and Rehabilitation : Sensori-motor Systems (TNR: SM)

Individuals with neurological disorders suffer from various degrees of impairment, functional limitations and participation restrictions. Neurological rehabilitation aims to improve motor control, functional ability and facilitate active participation in the community. The TNR-SM research group focuses on innovative and impactful rehabilitation intervention to enhance the physical function and health of individuals with neurological conditions throughout their life. We collaborate with colleagues from the department and faculty as well as experts at the university and beyond. We use evaluation methods such as electrophysiological testing, brain imaging, biomechanical tests and behavioural performance. Our research includes:

exploratory mechanistic studies to promote in-depth understanding of neuroplasticity,
design and refinement of novel intervention,
clinical trials to scientifically underpin the efficacy of treatment interventions,
translation of new research-based knowledge to optimize the health outcomes and the potential of neuro-rehabilitation services.

Translational Neuroscience and Rehabilitation : Cognitive-affective Systems (TNR: CAS)

The TNS:CAS research group under the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences looks at the function of cognitive and affective neural systems, and the influences and implications of external and internal environments on typical human development and the rehabilitation of people with special needs. Researchers in this group have diverse expertise and academic backgrounds, ranging from neuroscientists using human and animal models in their research to clinical scientists working with patients with various disabilities.

Research topics include:

how cognitive-affective systems process information at the cellular and system level,
how lifespan development, pathology and the external environment (physical, psychosocial, pollution) impact on the structure and function of neural systems,
how intervention and clinical practice can enhance untapped neural function, or combat pathological change and degeneration of neural systems.
This research engages multidisciplinary expertise such as biomedical engineering, computer science, computational science, design and engineering, electrophysiology, mathematics and statistics, magnetic resonance physics, and physiology. The state-of-the-art equipment deployed by our researchers are mainly housed in different laboratories in the department and the University Research Facility in Behavioural and Systems Neuroscience (UBSN). The works published by our researchers appear in prestigious scientific journals such as Cerebral Cortex, Nature Communications, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron and PNAS. Researchers in this group are active in seeking external major research grants to support their work, for example from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (General Research Fund, Collaborative Research Fund and Research Impact Fund), the Health and Medical Research Fund, the Innovation and Technology Fund of Hong Kong, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Musculoskeletal and Sport Rehabilitation

The field of musculoskeletal research has evolved into a major area in rehabilitation science due to the practice of active living and the rapid growth in knowledge in biomechanics, movement sciences and injury prevention. The department is advancing the field of musculoskeletal research by bridging scientific research and clinical practice. Those working in musculoskeletal research in our department, have research interests covering different parts of the body, disease patterns, age groups and clinical intervention programmes. The department endeavours to produce scientific evidence for clinical practice in musculoskeletal rehabilitation and beyond.

Healthy Ageing

Like most developed countries or cities, Hong Kong is facing the problem of an ageing population. Advancing age is associated with an increased risk of developing debilitating chronic diseases such as stroke, dementia, heart disease, arthritis and osteoporosis. Healthcare problems stemming from these conditions have a substantial impact on the quality of life among older people and their caregivers. Physiotherapists and occupational therapists play prominent roles in health promotion, disease prevention and rehabilitation of the aged. The Healthy Ageing Research Group studies the age-related changes in physical, cognitive and psychosocial functions, and looks at different therapeutic means to promote health and quality of life among older adults in community and institutional settings.