Kessler Foundation scientists receive three grants for spinal cord injury research

Clinical Trials & Research

Kessler Foundation scientists received three spinal cord injury research grants from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, to ensure that they have the capacity to complete projects delayed by the pandemic. The grants were awarded to Amanda Botticello, PhD, MPH, Denise Fyffe, PhD, and Jeanne Zanca, PhD, MPT, who conduct research in the Centers for Spinal Cord Injury Research and Outcomes and Assessment Research.

Early during the pandemic, many of our research studies were temporarily put on hold in order to follow government stay-at-home guidelines and minimize risk to our participants. Neilsen Foundation recognized these challenges and generously provided additional supplemental support to ensure that we can successfully complete these projects in spite of the delays. This is another great example of how partnering with the Neilsen Foundation has enabled us to make measurable progress toward improving the lives of people living with spinal cord injury.”

Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD, Director, Centers for Spinal Cord Injury Research and Outcomes and Assessment Research

Amanda Botticello, PhD, MPH, assistant director, received $43,596 in funding for her continued study titled, “Mapping Context for a Better Understanding of Community Integration and Participation after Spinal Cord Injury.” People living with chronic paralysis after a spinal cord injury (SCI) often experience community integration and participation barriers. The study seeks to understand the role of the environment to address those barriers. Going forward, the project will incorporate assessments of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on social isolation and identify areas to improve interventions for people with disabilities during future public health crises.

Denise Fyffe, PhD, senior research scientist, received supplemental funding of $35,000 to support her project titled, “Exploring Racial/Ethnic Contextual Factors Associated with Functional Independence in Spinal Cord Injury.” Racially/ethnically diverse persons with SCI may not engage in functional independence activities due to personal, cultural, and contextual factors.

This study seeks to determine the factors that impact their self-care and independence by utilizing new technologies to collect wheelchair usage data on participants’ mobility at home and in the community. The goal is to develop recommendations for culturally-sensitive interventions that promote self-management and lead to community-based strategies that encourage functional independence and community participation.

Jeanne Zanca, PhD, MPT, senior research scientist received funding of $35,000 to support her project titled, “Neurofeedback to Assist Self-Regulation of Neuropathic Pain Post-Spinal Cord Injury.” While medications are often the primary method of treatment, they are inadequate for controlling neuropathic pain and the negative impact it has on quality of life. Dr. Zanca’s study seeks to identify novel non-pharmacologic strategies for managing pain.

The study will use neuroimaging to test whether neurofeedback (a way of providing a person with information about his/her brain activity during a thinking task) can help people with SCI learn to control activity in brain areas related to pain, and learn to reduce the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain they experience.

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