Former MRRI Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Masahiro Yamada Begins New Faculty Position

Masahiro Yamada, PhD, began his postdoctoral fellowship at Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI) in December 2020 under the guidance of his mentor, Shailesh Kantak, PT, PhD. At MRRI, Masahiro expanded his knowledge and expertise in neuroscience, utilizing transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to elucidate motor control mechanisms of post-stroke patients.

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MRRI Scientist in Residence Dr. Lyn Turkstra Visits the Institute

Scientific exchange and collaboration are often critical for developing and advancing world-class research programs. This was the motivation behind the development of MRRI’s Scientist in Residence program. Last month, MRRI was excited to welcome Lyn Turkstra, PhD, CCC-SLP, BC-NCD(A), for an in-person visit to the Institute. Dr. Turkstra is a Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University, and she has been a Scientist in Residence at MRRI since 2019. During her visit, Dr. Turkstra connected with MRRI researchers including MRRI Associate Director, Amanda Rabinowitz, PhD, to work on collaborative research projects focused on cognition and communication after brain injury.

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Meet MRRI Postdoc Alumnus John Medaglia, PhD

Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI) is dedicated to training the next generation of researchers in neuroscience and neurorehabilitation, and the Institute is thrilled to continue to follow the outstanding careers and achievements of former trainees. From 2014-2016, John Medaglia, PhD, completed a joint postdoctoral fellowship at MRRI and the University of Pennsylvania as part of the MRRI/Penn T32 Postdoctoral Training Program. Continue Reading

Dr. Edwards Receives Grant to Study Potential Treatment for Spinal Cord Injury

MRRI is pleased to announce that Dylan Edwards, PhD, has been awarded a competitive grant from the Pennsylvania State Department of Health to conduct a translational research study using noninvasive brain stimulation to promote recovery in adults with spinal cord injury. For this study, Dr. Edwards has compiled a multidisciplinary team including MossRehab Clinicians, Thomas Jefferson University Biostatistics, and other leading basic and clinical researchers in the U.S. and abroad.

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MRRI Welcomes Two New Scientific Advisory Board Members


MRRI maintains an active Scientific Advisory Board composed of diverse experts in relevant areas of neuroscience, neurorehabilitation, and research strategy. This Board provides valuable feedback on MRRI’s scientific research, as well as the Institute’s operations. This month, MRRI is excited to welcome two new members to the Scientific Advisory Board. Jennifer Bogner, PhD, ABPP, FACRM, from The Ohio State University and Lewis Wheaton, PhD, from Georgia Tech have recently accepted their invitations to join the Board, bringing the total number of Board Members up to seven.

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Don’t Miss The Latest Edition of the MossRehab TBI Model System’s Brain E-News

The MossRehab Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Model System team is pleased to provide news and updates in this new edition of Brain E-News. In the Spring 2023 edition of the newsletter, we introduce you to Lauren Krasucki, PT, DPT, MPH, CPH, who has joined the team as a Lab Manager, as well as Emma Stern, who recently started a position as a research assistant. This edition also shares research updates, including an article discussing new studies examining the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with brain injuries and some of the exciting collaborative projects that MRRI scientists are working on with researchers from other TBI Model System centers.

Click here to read the full Spring 2022 Edition of Brain E-News.

New Research by Scientists at MRRI and UCL Investigates the Impacts of Gesture on Naming Ability in People with Aphasia

Communication is more than just talking. In a face-to-face conversation, we also use gestures and facial expressions alongside speech to convey information. For example, the concept of waving your hand to greet someone can be expressed by saying the word “waving” or by performing the gesture itself. These concepts stored in long-term memory are thought to be shared across networks of brain areas responsible for speech and gesture. Gestures may also support word-finding: some studies have shown that when people struggle to retrieve words, producing a corresponding gesture also triggers production of the word. Other studies, however, have shown no effect of gesture on word-finding.

For individuals with aphasia, a language disorder that is common after a stroke or brain injury, word-finding difficulties are frequent. Because of this, some types of speech-language therapy encourage individuals with aphasia to rely on gesture to help them retrieve words more easily. However, an alternative approach known as constraint-induced language therapy requires individuals to rely on speech alone and restricts the use of gesture. While some individuals with aphasia benefit from constraint-induced language therapy, others benefit from therapy that allows for the use of gesture. It is unclear why different individuals with aphasia benefit from different types of therapy.

Approximately half of individuals with aphasia following a stroke also suffer from limb apraxia, a disorder which results in the impaired production of gestures and other skilled actions. One possibility is that individuals with limb apraxia will benefit less from the observation and use of gesture during speech-language therapy. To investigate this possibility, researchers from Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI) and University College London (UCL) Amy Lebkuecher, PhD, Laurel Buxbaum, PsyD, Isobel Chick, MSc, and Gabriella Vigliocco, PhD, are conducting a study about the effect of gesture on naming ability in individuals with aphasia after stroke. In this experiment, the researchers are using gamified tasks, specifically “Go Fish” and “Heads Up”, to evaluate naming ability in an engaging and naturalistic context. Individuals with aphasia participating in this experiment are asked to complete these gamified tasks in two conditions: one that permits the use of gesture, and one that constrains it. In the condition where use of gesture is permitted, participants also observe the researcher performing gestures that are conceptually related to the objects and actions being named or described. In the condition where the use of gesture is constrained, both participant and researcher are not allowed to use gestures to communicate.

The researchers will compare participants’ performance on the gamified tasks across these conditions to determine whether the ability to name objects and actions improves when individuals with aphasia are allowed to use and observe meaningful, co-speech gestures. Additionally, the researchers will examine whether the benefit of gesture differs for individuals with and without limb apraxia, and explore whether there are other individual differences that affect whether gestures support word retrieval in aphasia. Data collection for this study is currently in progress. This research aims to advance our scientific understanding of the connection between speech and gesture in the brain. From a clinical perspective, the findings of this study may also help identify which individuals with aphasia are likely to benefit from the use of gestures during speech-language therapy, potentially leading to more personalized therapy.