SOURCE: Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation

March 15, 2013 11:15 ET

Kessler Foundation Marks Brain Injury Awareness Month

Advances in Rehabilitation Research and Funding for Disability Employment Benefit People With Traumatic Brain Injury

WEST ORANGE, NJ--(Marketwire - Mar 15, 2013) - Representatives from Kessler Foundation attended Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill on March 13, educating attendees on Kessler Foundation's brain injury research and programs that expand disability employment opportunities.

Kessler Foundation's Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Research examines the social and cognitive -- thinking, learning, and memory -- problems that result from brain injury. "We are interested in more than recovery; we want to get people back to school and back to work as productive members of their communities," said Nancy Chiaravalloti, Ph.D., project director of the Northern New Jersey Traumatic Brain Injury System (NNJTBIS) and director of TBI Research at Kessler Foundation.

Kessler Foundation is one of 16 federally funded model systems that form a national comprehensive system of care, research, education and dissemination aimed at improving quality of life for people with TBI. NNJTBIS is a collaborative effort of Kessler Foundation, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, and UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. TBI studies are also funded by the New Jersey Commission on Brain Injury Research

Research at Kessler Foundation focuses on the cognitive issues that impede recovery from TBI. Processing speed, memory, cognitive fatigue, diversity-based rehabilitation outcomes and other issues that adversely affect the daily function of individuals with brain injury. Highlights include:

  • Dr. Chiaravalloti and VP of Research John DeLuca, PhD, are well known for ground-breaking work in cognitive rehabilitation research and neuroimaging aimed at improving learning and memory in individuals with TBI or multiple sclerosis (MS).
  • Research Scientist Denise Krch, Ph.D., is investigating whether the theory of cognitive reserve applies to people with TBI. James Sumowski, Ph.D., research scientist at Kessler Foundation, recently demonstrated the theory of cognitive reserve in MS. He found that individuals who have a mentally enriching lifestyle prior to their diagnosis are protected from cognitive decline associated with the disease.
  • Post-doctoral Fellow Starla Weaver, Ph.D., is investigating how the process of task switching improves deficits in executive functions -- such as planning, organizing and performing tasks in a sequence -- after TBI. Task switching is thought to contribute to many executive functions.
  • Research Scientist Helen Genova, Ph.D., is studying ways to predict recovery after TBI, in an effort to improve early rehabilitation and guide patients and families along the recovery process. To assess the brain, she is using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to study the brain's white matter.
  • Drs. Lequerica and Krch are examining optimal strategies for rehabilitation in the Hispanic community and the factors influencing employment post-injury.
  • Assistant Director Glenn Wylie, DPhil, is applying neuroimaging techniques to define cognitive fatigue and develop ways to treat this disabling consequence of TBI.
  • Kessler Foundation researchers analyzed demographic factors associated with rehabilitation progress after TBI. They found that even after controlling for injury severity and age, other factors such as education level and income at the time of injury, were associated with progress in rehabilitation.
  • Assistant Director Jeanne Lengenfelder, Ph.D., is studying how aging affects the person with TBI, as well as the symptoms of apathy and depression.
  • Director of Stroke Research A.M. Barrett, M.D., and colleagues found that left-sided brain injuries are associated with greater likelihood of hospital-acquired infections during inpatient rehabilitation. These findings have implications for further research into brain-mediated immune defenses, infection control practices and cognitive rehabilitation strategies to improve outcomes after stroke and traumatic brain injury.

With the opening of the Kessler Foundation Center for Neuroimaging Research in April 2013, advances in research will occur at a more rapid pace. Equipped with a powerful 3T Siemens Skyra Scanner, this will be one of the few on-site imaging centers dedicated solely to research in the nation. Neuroimaging will enable our scientists to study relationships between brain structure, function and behavior in individuals with multiple sclerosis, stroke and spinal cord injury, as well as brain injury.

Kessler Foundation shares research breakthroughs through scientific publications, research and consumer conferences, TBI News & Views -- its consumer newsletter -- social media outlets and the Model System Knowledge Translation Center. 

In addition to rehabilitation research, Kessler Foundation also distributes grant funding to organizations that create or expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. "A number of initiatives focus specifically on individuals with brain injury, including veterans," said to Elaine Katz, VP of Grants and Special Initiatives. Among others, the Foundation's disability employment grants support:

  • The Center for Head Injury Services, in St. Louis, Mo., to establish Destination Desserts -- a social enterprise where employees, mostly with brain injury, prepare and sell baked goods.
  • The University of Alaska Anchorage Center for Human Development, to develop a customized self-employment model for working age adults with brain injury.
  • The Jewish Family & Vocational Service of Middlesex County, in Milltown, N.J., to provide supported employment services to veterans with TBI and other disabling conditions.
  • Opportunity Project, in Millburn, N.J., provides work evaluation, work adjustment training, supported employment and long-term follow along for adults with brain injury.
  • Brain Injury Association of Florida's Project RESULTS, which has a record of markedly improving employment rates for individuals with TBI.

Kessler Foundation also supports proactive measures to prevent brain injury. For more than two decades, the Foundation has sponsored the N.J. chapter of ThinkFirst -- a national injury prevention program that educates students, from kindergarten through high school, on simple safety practices to avoid serious injuries and disability. In the 21 years that Kessler Foundation has sponsored ThinkFirst in NJ, more than 300,000 students have learned the dangers of engaging in risky behaviors.

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.

#H133A120030; Improving New Learning in TBI: Using FMRI to Measure Outcome
NJ COmmission
CBIR12FEL028; CBIR12IRG004
Kessler Foundation
NIH R01NS055808; K24HD062647

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