MRRI Testing Medication’s Effect on Memory in Brain Injury Patients

People with traumatic brain injuries frequently face problems with everyday memory function – an issue that can limit their recovery.  Tessa Hart, PhD, director of the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute’s Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Research Laboratory, is contributing to research that may lead to improved memory in those people.

As part of a four-site study, Dr. Hart’s lab is testing whether the medication donepezil, which is used to treat dementia in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, can help with memory function in TBI patients. Donepezil is approved by the FDA and is known to be safe, with minimal side effects.

In this video, Dr. Hart provides more information on the study, which is currently recruiting additional research subjects. If you are interested in participating in the study, please call 215-663-6432.


Postdoctoral research training at MRRI

Former fellows reflect on their experiences in the NIH-funded program

For the past five years Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI) has been the lead site in a postdoctoral research program funded by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) training grant in translational neurorehabilitation research. Students who qualify for the unique fellowships made possible by this grant are given opportunities to gain exceptional in-depth mentorship and training critical for careers in translational neurorehabilitation research. The training opportunity is offered in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Neurology and Center for Functional Neuroimaging (Penn).

“The three-year fellowship is an apprenticeship model of training designed to offer mentored experience in meeting the challenges of the translational process,” says John Whyte, MD, PhD, principal investigator and director of the post-doctoral research training program, and founding director of MRRI. “Fellows spend most of their time conducting research in the lab of a primary mentor, but typically also select a secondary mentor. In keeping with our goal of promoting translational research, if a fellow’s primary mentor is largely engaged in basic science, we will encourage that person to have a secondary mentor whose work has more of a clinical focus, and vice versa.” Continue Reading


NIH Grant Aims to Improve Naming in People with Aphasia

Can you recall a time when you couldn’t think of the name for something? Perhaps it was a familiar object you could picture in your mind. The word was “on the tip of your tongue,” but you just couldn’t name it.

Scientists who study language call this experience the tip of the tongue phenomenon. It happens occasionally to people with healthy brains, and it seems to become more prevalent as a part of healthy aging. The phenomenon is more common and persistent for people with aphasia—a disorder arising from brain damage that affects the production or comprehension of spoken, written or gestured speech. Aphasia affects more than one million people in the U.S., most of whom have suffered a left-hemisphere stroke. Continue Reading


Studying Concussions Using Smart Phone App

Physicians trying to manage concussion symptoms face a dual challenge – no way to identify which patients will go on to suffer from persistent concussion symptoms and a dearth of evidence-based treatments.

Amanda Rabinowitz, PhD, director of the Brain Injury Neuropsychology Laboratory at the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, is conducting a research study that uses mobile app technology to address this core issue.

In Dr. Rabinowitz’s study, recently concussed individuals use a smart-phone app to record their symptoms at multiple times throughout the day while they go about their daily activities.

As she explains in this video, the ultimate goal is to develop a method for planning individualized concussion treatments.


Hart Receives Award for Lifetime Contributions

Dr. Hart holding award

Tessa Hart, PhD, institute scientist, recently received the Roger G. Barker Distinguished Research Contribution Award at the 2017 Rehabilitation Psychology Conference in Albuquerque, N.M.

The annual Barker award is “conferred upon an individual who is judged to have made an outstanding lifelong contribution to Rehabilitation Psychology through empirical research, conceptual/ theoretical development, or both.” It is named for Roger G. Barker, who was a founder of environmental psychology, which focuses on how social and physical environments influence actions and behavior.

Dr. Hart directs the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Research Laboratory as well as the Moss Traumatic Brain Injury Model System. Her research focuses on TBI outcomes and treatments, with special focus on long-term psychosocial outcomes and treatments involving cognitive and emotional self-regulation.


Focusing on Visual Perception to Improve Motor Performance After Stroke

Mirror Therapy

Steven Jax, PhD, has spent most of his career at Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI), and doesn’t have plans to leave any time soon. Dr. Jax came to MRRI from Penn State, where he did his doctorate work in basic sensorimotor processing. He began his tenure at MRRI as a post-doc in the lab of Laurel J. Buxbaum, PysD. There, he began his research on rehabilitation in stroke patients, which he’s expanded over the years as director of the Perceptual-Motor Control Laboratory. Continue Reading


Using Mirror Therapy to Trick the Brain’s Motor System

Many people who have had a stroke experience difficulties moving one arm. These problems can significantly affect their quality of life, but treating them is often difficult and many individuals fail to ever recover adequate use of the arm. Improvement for many people who have experienced a stroke is also hindered by limited medical insurance coverage for long-term therapy.

Hope may come for these patients from a technique using mirrors that tricks the brain into thinking it sees both limbs as healthy. Continue Reading


Testing a Treatment for Phantom Limb Pain

Research by Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute and Penn Medicine into a treatment for the phantom limb pain received coverage on a Philadelphia television station recently.

Almost 2 million people in the U.S. have had an amputation. The great majority of those people experience a persistent sensation of the missing limb, known as a “phantom limb,” which is associated with debilitating pain. Current therapies fall short of bringing relief to most of these individuals. Continue Reading


Mapping the Brain’s Tool Use Network

buxbaum_novel_tools_task_650

Imagine attempting to find an everyday kitchen item—for example, a spatula— in a drawer, and then using the spatula to flip a pancake. What if instead of retrieving the spatula, you picked up and used a nearby fork with a spatula-like action? Such errors, in which objects are mis-used during the course of everyday actions, are experienced by thousands of individuals with a disabling and common disorder known as limb apraxia.

For more than two decades, the Cognition and Action Lab at MRRI, headed by Laurel Buxbaum, PsyD, has been making strides in understanding both the neurological deficits and regions of the brain involved in this disorder, as well as the normal cognitive mechanisms that permit successful tool-related actions. Among the lab’s many achievements is the development of a cognitive neuroanatomical model of the processes and brain regions that may govern complex tool-related behaviors. Continue Reading