MRRI Contributes to New Research Exploring How to Improve Memory in Traumatic Brain Injury and Depression

Dr. Umesh Venkatesan

Umi Venkatesan, PhD, who directs the Brain Trauma and Behavior Laboratory at Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI), is Site Principal Investigator of a new study that will examine learning and memory in individuals living with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and depression. Amanda Rabinowitz, PhD, Director of MRRI’s Brain Injury Neuropsychology Laboratory, will also contribute to this effort. The project represents a collaboration between scientists at Kessler Foundation (lead site; East Hanover, NJ), Montclair State University (Montclair, NJ), the University of Pennsylvania, and MRRI. The work is funded by the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health.

Symptoms of depression are commonly experienced by individuals with TBI and can present significant functional challenges beyond cognitive or mobility impairment. However, many research studies on cognition after TBI do not examine depression symptoms, or exclude individuals with depression, rather than understanding the impact of depression on cognitive outcomes. This new study aims to fill that gap by examining how individuals learn and remember information when they are living with either TBI or clinical depression, and also how having both conditions at the same time impacts memory. It will incorporate both paper-and-pencil testing of cognitive abilities as well as advanced, non-invasive neuroimaging (MRI) methods. Using specialized tasks, the research team hopes to study new ways in which we can improve memory performance when people are simultaneously experiencing the effects of TBI and depression. Ultimately, the goal is to find support for new memory treatments that could positively impact patients’ quality of life.

Study planning is well underway, and recruitment at MRRI will begin within the next month. Research participation consists of an MRI scan and computerized testing at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a research visit at MRRI for further assessment of cognitive abilities and psychological functioning. The study will run through Spring 2026, and findings will provide important insights into the mechanisms underlying memory impairment in TBI. A better understanding of these mechanisms will inform development of future treatments, particularly in individuals living with both TBI and depression. This study is just the latest in MRRI’s long history of productive scientific collaboration and commitment to work that matters to patients, families, and healthcare providers.

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