News Release

Dr. Costa of Kessler Foundation receives Switzer Research Fellowship for MS research

NIDILRR Merit Fellowship funds research for new treatment for information processing deficits in MS

Grant and Award Announcement

Kessler Foundation

Silvana Lopes Costa, Ph.D., Kessler Foundation

image: Dr. Costa is a Hearst Fellow in Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation, where she investigates cognitive deficits in multiple sclerosis. view more 

Credit: Kessler Foundation

March 4, 2016. West Orange, NJ. Silvana L. Costa, PhD, of Kessler Foundation has been awarded a Switzer Research Fellowship by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). The $70,000 Merit Award funds her research on "Processing Speed Deficits in Multiple Sclerosis: Exploring the Complex Sensorial Cognitive Motor Interaction."

Merit Fellowships are awarded to scientists with advanced professional training or research experience in independent study in appropriate areas that are directly pertinent to disability and rehabilitation, but who are in earlier stages of their research career, with less than the required seven years' experience, or who do not have a doctorate. Of the six Merit Fellowships awarded by NIDILRR in 2015, two were awarded to researchers at Kessler Foundation.

"Traditionally, Information processing speed has been considered a single cognitive factor," noted Dr. Costa, a Hearst Fellow in Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation. "Processing speed is, however, dependent on how fast and efficiently the individual is able to execute three steps: 1) sensorial speed - related to visual and/or auditory system functioning; 2) cognitive speed ? the speed at which one is able to manipulate information and plan the answer; and 3) motor speed ? the time one needs to provide a response. Understanding how this basic series of steps can be affected by brain pathology is essential to developing effective interventions."

According to Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, director of Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research, "This is a new and innovative area of MS research that will significantly improve our methods for evaluating and treating people with information processing speed deficits caused by MS. These advances will have the potential to address deficits associated with other neurological disorders as well."

Funded by NIDILRR grant 90SF0012-01-00.


About MS Research at Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation's cognitive rehabilitation research in MS is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, National MS Society, Consortium of MS Centers, the Patterson Trust, Biogen Idec, Hearst Foundations, the International Progressive MS Alliance, and Kessler Foundation. Under the leadership of John DeLuca, PhD, senior VP for Research & Training, and Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, director of Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research, scientists have made important contributions to the knowledge of cognitive decline in MS and developed new treatments. Clinical studies span new learning, memory, executive function, attention and processing speed, cognitive reserve, emotional processing, employment and cognitive fatigue. Research tools include innovative applications of neuroimaging, mobile devices, and virtual reality. Neuroimaging studies are conducted at the research-dedicated Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center at Kessler Foundation. Kessler researchers and clinicians have faculty appointments in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

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

Contacts: Carolann Murphy, PA; 973.324.8382;

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