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Trauma recovery: new science and technology for mental and physical health



The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Credit: Invictus Games Foundation

This Transforming our Future meeting, held by the Royal Society in partnership with the Invictus Games Foundation, will bring together leading experts from industry, academia, government and the wider scientific community to discuss recent advances in technologies and treatments that have the real possibility of helping individuals recover from injury across the health spectrum.

The conference will focus upon two broad themes: Our increased understanding of the biology of human health after injury, and especially the impact of trauma on both mental and physical health and the application of innovative new technologies and treatments to help individuals adapt to life-changing injuries. Following the presentations, speakers will discuss what can be achieved in the short- and medium-term, and how such developments should be prioritised and driven forward based upon the experiences of those who have suffered injury. 

Attending this event 

This event is currently invitation only, public registration will open in January.

Please contact the Industry team for more information.

About the conference series

This scientific meeting is part of the Royal Society’s Transforming our Future conference series. The Transforming our Future meetings are unique, high-level events that address the scientific and technical challenges of the next decade. Each conference features cutting edge science from industry and academia and brings together leading experts from the scientific community, including regulatory, charity and funding bodies.

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Event organisers

Select an organiser for more information

Schedule of talks

04 March




Welcoming remarks



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Dr Christopher Boos, Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

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David Henson MBE, Imperial College London

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Coffee and networking


Session 1

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Professor Russell Foster CBE FRS, University of Oxford

Innovations in The Treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Professor Barbara Rothbaum, Emory Healthcare Veterans Program


The pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy literatures for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will be succinctly reviewed and discussed, focusing on cognitive behavioral treatments (CBT) and specifically exposure therapies. Innovations in the treatment of PTSD will be broadly divided into 1) Medium of Delivery of Exposure Therapy; 2) Enhancing Exposure Therapy with Pharmacological Agents; 3) Timing of Exposure Therapy, and 4) Treatment Delivery Schedules. The medium of delivery of exposure therapy will focus on Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRE). Some of the pharmacological enhancing agents will include cognitive enhancers such as D-Cycloserine and psychedelics such as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). The timing of exposure therapy will discuss early interventions administered within hours of trauma exposure. Finally, massed prolonged exposure (PE) treatment delivery will be presented using the example of the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program intensive outpatient treatment model and pilot data will be presented.

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How to sleep well – understanding the causes and cures for a bad night after trauma

Dr Kirstie Anderson, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust


Better nights for better days? Normal quantity and timing of sleep is vital for normal brain function. If sleep is interrupted for any reason it affects mood, memory and metabolism. Therefore improving sleep after a physical or mental health problem should be thought of as a key tool for recovery. The talk will cover the different causes of sleep disturbance after trauma and the evidence for effective therapies. Our research and sleep clinic work focuses upon the impact of sleep upon mental health and the benefits and sometimes side effects of the therapies and in particular medications used during and after major trauma. Education of health professionals, patient and families about sleep and sleep disorders is needed for health after injury.

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Improving lives for people following traumatic brain injury

Professor Melinda Fitzgerald, Curtin University and the Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) arises as a result of a physical injury to the brain and dramatically impacts the lives of both the patient involved and the people around them. There is a desperate need for new options to improve lives following TBI and give patients and their families hope for the future. TBI arises from a range of circumstances, such as concussion from playing sport, an elderly person having a fall or severe injury arising following a road accident. The resulting injuries vary in severity, ranging from mild to moderate or severe trauma to the brain. Symptoms also span a spectrum of severity, such as deficits in cognition through to vegetative states, varying degrees of lack of emotional control, poor mental health, disrupted balance and sleep disturbances. These can lead to dramatic, often long-lasting, impacts on patients and their families and a substantial financial drain on society.

The Australian Mission for TBI is a large scale federally funded initiative in Australia, providing 10 million AUD over 10 years. The Expert Advisory Panel for the Mission will define priorities for research funding that will improve outcomes for people following TBI of all severity, from concussion through to severe injuries. It is likely that the approach will include a large scale research registry that will enable the prediction of outcomes following injury. In addition, nationwide clinical trials of promising treatments will be conducted. The research of the Australian Mission for TBI has the potential to be transformative and lead to substantially improved outcomes for people who have experienced a TBI.

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Using Virtual Reality (VR) to deliver engaging, efficacious, and fast psychological intervention

Professor Daniel Freeman, University of Oxford, UK


Mental health disorders are very common, but far too few people receive the best treatments. Much greater access to the best psychological treatments may be achieved using automated delivery in virtual reality (VR). With virtual reality simulations, individuals can repeatedly experience problematic situations and be taught, via evidence-based psychological treatments, how to overcome difficulties. A key advantage of VR is that individuals know that a computer environment is not real but their minds and bodies behave as if it is real; hence, people will much more easily face difficult situations in VR than in real life and be able to try out new therapeutic strategies. VR treatments can also be made much more engaging and appealing for patients than traditional therapies. A systematic programme of work developing and testing automated VR psychological treatments will be described, with a particular focus on the gameChange ( project for schizophrenia.

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Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin, Blind Veterans UK

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Lunch and networking


Session 2

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Professor Jackie Hunter CBE, BenevolentAI

RoboTrainer: Making effective rehab training available to everyone

Dr Anders Sørensen, University of Southern Denmark


A large amount of trauma victims suffer neurological damage to motor function, that severely inhibit rehabilitative training. Overcome by gravity, they are locked in a viscous circle, risking atrophy, circulatory disease and other physical complications, while depression may further undermine their quality of life. Underwater training, exoskeletons and advanced training machines may break the circle, but their high operational cost is in stark contrast to the high amounts of training needed to make a difference. In the RoboTrainer projects, we explore the design and impact of training robots optimized for simplicity and low cost. Our initial studies show that such devices can easily be operated by physical therapists in simple clinics, and potentially also by patients and their helpers at home. Case tests on the long term robot training made feasible by RoboTrainer show promising results in terms of strength and functional improvement in chronic (abandoned) patients with neurological damage.

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Dr Andreas Goppelt, Ottobock

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Professor Ann Logan, University of Birmingham

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USB Port for the Body

Dr Oliver Armitage, BIOS


For those who use prosthetic arms, current technologies are not able to connect directly to the nervous system giving them limited control and comfort. But BIOS is working on using AI to connect directly to nerves and read and write onto the nervous system to give amputees more control than ever before.

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Coffee and refreshments


Panel: scientific directions

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Sir Simon Wessely FMedSci, King's College London

Air Commodore Rich Withnall QHS, UK Defence Medical Services
Wing Commander Marcus Stow, JHubMed

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Closing remarks and conference close

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Trauma recovery: new science and technology for mental and physical health

Bringing together scientists from industry and academia and the wider scientific, medical and policy community to discuss science employed to help patients recover from traumatic events. Speakers will explore technologies and treatments for those who have suffered from physical and mental trauma.

The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK
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