MRRI Testing Post-Concussion Smart Phone App

There are two major challenges in concussion management:

  1. There is no way to identify which patients will experience persistent problems, and
  2. No evidenced-based treatments are available for these patients.

Treatment development is hampered by the dearth of prognostic markers, hence the first problem contributes to the latter.

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 issue.

Headache, fatigue, sleep disturbance, and thinking difficulties are common following a concussion. However, these symptoms are non-specific in nature—that is, relatively common to many conditions, not only concussion. Concussion symptoms can also fluctuate depending on setting, time of day, and engagement in physically or mentally demanding activities.

“Concussion symptoms are a moving target,” says Dr. Rabinowitz, “and this poses a challenge for clinicians attempting to identify the individuals at risk for persistent problems and select the appropriate treatments.”

More detailed information on how symptoms evolve over time for a given patient may shed light on the etiology and recovery course of persistent symptoms.

“No two patients are alike, even if they both have similar symptoms.” says Dr. Rabinowitz. “Headache may be the major problem for one patient, but depression could be the core issue for another. We would not see these important difference in group-level data, but an individual’s responses over time may reveal a pattern that tells us a lot about that person’s recovery.”

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. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop a method for planning individualized concussion treatments that target the primary sources of post-concussion dysfunction on a patient-by-patient basis. This project is currently recruiting participants.

Watch Dr. Rabinowitz discuss this research project with health reporter Stephanie Stahl:

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