Kessler Foundation receives $2.24 million grant to fund Northern New Jersey Traumatic Brain Injury System

Kessler Foundation received a $2.24 million, five-year grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to fund the Northern New Jersey Traumatic Brain Injury System (NNJTBIS). The NNJTBIS is part of the national Traumatic Brain Injury Model System, the largest long-term study of people who have experienced traumatic brain injury (TBI).

This marks the fifth, five-year TBI Model System grant that Kessler has received from NIDILRR, covering a span of 25 years. NIDILRR awards TBI Model System grants to institutions that are national leaders in medical research and patient care, providing the highest level of comprehensive specialty services from the point of injury through eventual re-entry into full community life.

The NNJTBIS is a longstanding collaboration involving Kessler Foundation, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, and four trauma hospitals: University Hospital, Hackensack University Medical Center, Morristown Medical Center, and Saint Joseph's Regional Medical Center. Together, their scope of services provides a multidisciplinary system of rehabilitation care, including emergency, acute, and post-acute services for individuals in northern New Jersey.

We are honored to be among the 16 regional model system grantees of the 2022-2027 grant cycle. This grant allows us to continue to improve rehabilitation treatment and outcomes for individuals with TBI, their families, and caregivers, as well as to educate health care professionals and the general public about the medical, psychological, social, and emotional effects of TBI."

Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, Project Director of the NNJTBIS and Director, Centers for Neuropsychology, Neuroscience and Traumatic Brain Injury Research at Kessler Foundation

Learning and memory impairment is a common and devastating manifestation of TBI associated with substantial life burdens. Persons with moderate-to-severe TBI have shown improvement in learning and memory for prose material (e.g., story) as well as beneficial changes in brain activation during list-learning following treatment with Kessler Foundation modified Story Memory Technique® (KF-mSMT®). "Benefits, however, were moderate and did not yield downstream improvements in daily life," said Dr. Chiaravalloti, adding, "consequently it is critical to examine other approaches to complement KF-mSMT for better managing learning and memory impairment in TBI."

The NNJTBIS site-specific study will be the first to include aerobic exercise training as a highly promising complement to KF-mSMT for robustly managing new learning and memory impairment, examining impact on learning and memory, its neural correlates, and daily life in persons with moderate-to-severe TBI. "A combination approach mirrors standard clinical practice, wherein multiple rehabilitative approaches are used concurrently to improve outcomes," explained Dr. Chiaravalloti.

Each regional model system contributes data to the Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems National Data and Statistical Center (TBINDSC). "These data guide our research aimed at improving rehabilitation interventions for people living with the effects of TBI," Dr. Chiaravalloti said. "Contributing to the national database fosters collaboration among regional model systems and advances our understanding of the challenges faced by individuals and caregivers, providing the impetus for finding effective ways to improve their quality of life," she concluded.

With this new grant, Kessler joins the ranks of ten centers in the nation with the distinction of having dual model systems of care for TBI and spinal cord injury (Northern New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury Model System).

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