Dr Nicola Saywell

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Head of department

Phone: +64 9 921 9502

Email: nicola.saywell@aut.ac.nz

Physical Address:
Auckland University of Technology
Akoranga Campus
90, Akoranga Drive
Auckland 0627
Postal Address:
Auckland University of Technology
Private Bag 92006
Auckland 1142 
Links to relevant web pages:
Neurological Rehabilitation


PhD-Doctor of Philosophy, MHSc, GradDipPhys

Memberships and Affiliations:

Neuro Rehabilitation Research Team AUT
Affiliated to Health and Rehabilitation Research Institute
Physiotherapy New Zealand
Neurology Special Interest Group


I maintained a wide scope of physiotherapy practice for the first 20 years after qualification, with a particular interest in community physiotherapy. During that time I worked in many areas, including women’s health, acute musculoskeletal, neurology, acute respiratory and chronic respiratory disorders. I began working at AUT University as a guest lecturer and tutorial assistant in 2003 and now teach on the undergraduate physiotherapy programme and post graduate programmes with a focus mainly on neurology.
I completed a Masters in health science in 2009 and PhD investigating stroke rehabilitation using telerehabilitation in 2016. I have an abiding interest in neurological rehabilitation in general and motor control and learning in particular.

Teaching Areas:

Neurological Physiotherapy
Rehabilitation and Participation
Motor control

Research Areas:

Low-cost-technology to increase rehabilitation
Stroke rehabilitation
Innovation in Multiple Sclerosis treatment

Research Summary:

I am interested in how low-cost, widely available technology such as mobile phones and simple movement monitors may help extend the reach of rehabilitation beyond what is currently possible. I was the project manager on a successful multi-centred RCT investigating an intervention being delivered via telerehabilitation to improve outcomes for people with stroke, which was the subject of my PhD. I now plan to extend this research (see below).

Current Research Projects:

The next project, for which we have received funding, investigates the use of automated text message reminders to encourage activity after discharge from community physiotherapy, inpatient and outpatient physiotherapy.

I am also involved in two other projects which extend the notion of simple technology to augment rehabilitation:
  • A project recording and augmenting arm movement after stroke, using simple technology.
  • A project using Web-based therapy to reach populations who have difficulty accessing rehabilitation.


Signal, N., McPherson K., Lewis, G., Kayes, N., Saywell, N, Mudge, S., & Taylor, D. (2016). What influences acceptability and engagement with a high intensity exercise programme for people with stroke? A qualitative descriptive study. NeuroRehabilitation DOI:10.3233/NRE-161382

Kitt, C., Wang, V., Harvey-Fitzgerald, L., & Saywell, N. (2016). Gaining perspectives of people with stroke, to inform development of a group exercise programme: a qualitative study. New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy, 44(1): 58-64.

Saywell, N., Taylor, N., Rodgers, E., Skinner, L. (2016) Play-based interventions for people with acquired brain injury- a systematic review. Clinical Rehabilitation, 31(2):145-157.

Saywell, N., & Taylor, D. (2014). Focus group insights assist trial design for stroke telerehabilitation: a qualitative study. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 31(3): 160-165.

Saywell, N., Vandal, A. C., Brown, P., Hanger, H. C., Hale, L., Mudge, S., ... Taylor, D. (2012). Telerehabilitation to improve outcomes for people with stroke: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. Trials, 13, 233. DOI:10.1186/1745-6215-13-233

Saywell, N., Taylor, D., & Boocock, M. (2012). During step descent, older adults exhibit decreased knee range of motion and increased vastus lateralis muscle activity. Gait & Posture, 36(3), 490-494. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2012.05.007

Saywell, N., & Taylor, D. (2008). The role of the cerebellum in procedural learning--are there implications for physiotherapists' clinical practice? Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 24(5): 321-328.