Dr Barrett of Kessler Foundation Receives NIH Funding to Improve Hand Function Poststroke

Kessler Foundation joins New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers University and Northeastern University in a multi-site project utilizing virtual reality training for hand rehabilitation in the acute rehabilitation setting

East Hanover, NJ – March 14, 2018 – A.M. Barrett, MD, of Kessler Foundation has received a five-year National Institutes of Health (NIH) sub-award to study new strategies for restoring hand function after stroke. The R01 grant to New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) titled, “Optimizing hand rehabilitation post-stroke using interactive virtual environments (HD58301),” funds four sites, each with a Project Director/Principal Investigator: NJIT (Sergei Adamovich, PhD), Kessler Foundation (Dr. Barrett), Rutgers University (Alma Merians, PT, PhD), and Northeastern University (Eugene Tunik, PT, PhD). Kessler Foundation will receive $1,200,000 over the five-year grant cycle.

Regaining hand function after stroke can be a significant factor in successfully returning individuals to their homes, communities, and the workplace. Research indicates that intensive training can be beneficial, but may need to be delivered soon after stroke, during a critical period of heightened plasticity. This project will compare traditional rehabilitation methods with hand training using robotics and game-based virtual reality (VR), and investigate the optimal timing for intensive rehabilitation.

The VR system is designed to encourage movement of each finger and increase range of motion, and provides visual feedback to reinforce motor networks in the affected hemisphere. “A specialized glove enables participants to interact with objects on a computer screen in a series of video game-like tasks,” explained Dr. Barrett, director, Stroke Rehabilitation Research at Kessler Foundation and chief, Neurorehabilitation Program Innovation at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. “They will perform these tasks with their impaired hand and/or arm, or while using a robotic arm. Using the robotic arm, they are able to touch or grasp objects on the screen, which helps exercise the muscles of their arm and hand.” Physical therapists from Rutgers and NJIT will perform training and evaluations on participants recruited through Kessler Foundation and Kessler Institute, where the study will take place. 

“This is a significant study in terms of collaboration as well as the integration of research and technology to advance patient care and improve functional outcomes,” noted Steven Kirshblum, MD, senior medical officer, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, chief medical officer, Kessler Foundation, and chair of the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

This project will help determine the most effective ways to improve hand function after stroke, and optimal timing for such interventions. “We anticipate that our findings will contribute to advancements in stroke rehabilitation that will improve quality of life for many stroke survivors,” concluded Dr. Barrett.

Funded by NIH grant HD58301

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.

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Carolann Murphy, PA; 973-324-8382; CMurphy@KesslerFoundation.org

Laura Viglione, MS; 973-323-3675; LViglione@KesslerFoundation.org