August 2020 Updates from MRRI

Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute scientists and staff members had a variety of accomplishments and events to celebrate during the month of August. First, we would like to congratulate Laurel Buxbaum, PsyD, and Amanda Therrien, PhD, who each received new grant awards from the Peer Review Committee (PRC). Under her award, Dr. Buxbaum will conduct initial feasibility and pilot studies using virtual reality to assess arm choice under cognitive load in people after stroke. Dr. Therrien’s award will fund a pilot study to assess behavioral predictors of responsiveness to a new movement training intervention for cerebellar ataxia.

Last month, we were also pleased to welcome two new postdoctoral scholars to our team of exceptional researchers. They have been meeting remotely with their mentors and have begun work on research activities. You can learn more about MRRI postdocs Haley Dresang, PhD, and Cory Potts, PhD, in our recent blog article. We also published a new blog post on the Parkinson’s Extension of the MRRI Research Registry featuring Emily Fannick and Katie Cornell, key staff members involved in recruiting new research volunteers.

MRRI scientists continued to make important contributions to the scientific literature in the field of neurorehabilitation with five new publications that were published or accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

One of these papers, authored by Tessa Hart, PhD, Amanda Rabinowitz, PhD, and collaborators, describes the development and impact of a clinical protocol to improve communication with patients experiencing post-traumatic amnesia following brain injury. Post-traumatic amnesia commonly occurs immediately following a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and is characterized by confusion, disorientation, and memory loss. This protocol was developed to help clinicians better treat and effectively communicate with patients with TBI.

Amanda Therrien, PhD, and collaborators also published an article which builds upon their previous work studying a new method of movement training for individuals with cerebellar ataxia – a condition is normally associated with impaired motor learning. By altering training conditions to leverage reinforcement-based learning mechanisms that do not depend on the cerebellum, they showed that individuals with cerebellar ataxia can learn, in a complex reaching task, to reduce features of their ataxia. This work suggests that reinforcement-based interventions may hold promise as a new method to improve rehabilitation training for cerebellar ataxia.

In addition, Dylan Edwards, PhD, was selected among top experts to co-author a chapter in a new edition of the book Neurovascular Neuropsychology. This book provides updated information on our understanding of the brain and its blood supply, including advances in medical and surgical treatments and their impacts on neurocognitive outcomes. The chapter to which he contributed describes the state of the evidence and new advances in application of non-invasive brain stimulation to facilitate recovery in stroke survivors.

We are pleased to acknowledge these recent successes, and our scientists look forward to continuing to make important contributions to the field of neurorehabilitation research to improve the lives of individuals with neurological disabilities.

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