News Release

Kessler Foundation awarded four grants by NJ Commission on Spinal Cord Research

Foundation scientists received more than $1.5 million to develop new strategies to improve rehabilitative care for complications of spinal cord injury

Grant and Award Announcement

Kessler Foundation

John DeLuca, Ph.D., Kessler Foundation

image: Dr. DeLuca is senior vice president for Research & Training at Kessler Foundation. view more 

Credit: Kessler Foundation

East Hanover, N.J., June 12, 2018. The New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Injury Research has awarded four grants to scientists at Kessler Foundation. The grants, which exceed $1.5 million, fund diverse studies aimed at expanding knowledge of learning deficits after spinal cord injury, developing new tools for cognitive assessments, identifying types of neuropathic pain, and studying brain activity during exoskeleton-assisted walking. In May, the Commission announced a total of $3 million in grants to successful applicants from qualified research organizations in New Jersey.

"These grants enable us to continue to expand the scope of our research in spinal cord injury," said John DeLuca, PhD, senior vice president for Research and Training at Kessler Foundation. "We will look more deeply into secondary conditions that may be complicating recovery after spinal cord injury, such as cognitive deficits and neuropathic pain," he explained, "and gather basic knowledge of the effect of exoskeleton-assisted walking on brain-muscle connections. The goal of these varied endeavors is the same - to translate our advances into improved rehabilitative care that enables individuals with spinal cord injury to participate fully at home, in their communities, and in the workplace."

Two individual research grants were awarded. Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, received a three-year grant for $557.782 for her study, "Examining behavioral and neural aspects of implicit procedural learning performance in individuals with spinal cord injury". Dr. Chiaravalloti is director of Neuropsychology, Neuroscience and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Research, and project director of the Northern New Jersey TBI Model System. Jeanne Zanca, PhD, MPT, received a three-year grant for $595,446 for her proposed project, "Informing identification of neuropathic pain phenotypes in people with spinal cord injury." Dr. Zanca is senior research scientist in Spinal Cord Injury Research, and an investigator with the Northern New Jersey Spinal Cord injury Model System.

Two of the awards were exploratory research grants. Silvana L. Costa, PhD, received a two-year grant for $194,306 to study, "Using eye-tracker based cognitive assessments to examine cognitive functions in spinal cord injury". Dr. Costa is associate research scientist in Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research; her postdoctoral research was funded by a Switzer Research Fellowship, and the inaugural Hearst Foundation Fellowship. Soha Saleh, PhD, received a two-year grant for $199,998 for her pilot study on the use neuroimaging to study brain-muscle connectivity, "Cortical control of walking; brain plasticity following exoskeleton training in incomplete spinal cord injury. Dr. Saleh is a research scientist in Human Performance & Engineering Research.


Funded by New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research grants CSGR18IRG013, CSCR18IRG014, CSCR18ERG004, CSGR18ERG028

About the New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Injury Research

The New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research, whose members are appointed by the Governor, was established on September 13, 1999, with the passage of the "Spinal Cord Research Act" by the New Jersey State Legislature. The Commission's mission is to ensure that the people of New Jersey receive the utmost attention and benefit in our nation's fight against spinal cord injury and disease through its promotion of research into the treatment and cure. The Commission was created to encourage and promote significant, original research projects in New Jersey through the funding of approved research projects at qualifying research institutions in the State. In addition, the Commission maintains, in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Health, a central registry of all persons who sustain spinal cord injuries.

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

Contact, Carolann Murphy, PA,, 973.324.8382

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