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Kessler Foundation awarded >$718,000 in research grants from Craig Neilsen Foundation

Five grants support rehabilitation research projects in spinal cord injury, including pain management, functional outcomes, quality of life, and factors affecting cognitive function

Kessler Foundation


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West Orange, NJ. March 17, 2014. Kessler Foundation has received more than $718,000 in grant funding from the Craig Neilsen Foundation. The funding, comprised of five grants, supports a variety of rehabilitation research projects in spinal cord injury (SCI), including pain management, functional outcomes, quality of life, and factors affecting cognitive function.

Amanda Botticello, PhD, MPH, research scientist, was awarded a two-year grant for $284,012 for 'Role of the Built Environment in Quality of Life for Adults with SCI.' Research shows that where people live is important to health and well-being. For persons with SCI, characteristics of neighborhoods and communities may be particularly important to quality of life. The physical features of communities, known as the built environment, refer to the way communities are structured in terms of housing, roads, services, and green space. This study explores the relationship between the physical features of communities and quality of life after SCI.

Denise Fyffe, PhD, research scientist, and Dr. Botticello received a one-year grant for $85,341 for 'Explaining Disparities in Functional Outcomes Associated with Quality of Life in SCI.' Functional disparities are negative outcomes that can impose an additional burden on the readjustment to life with a disability during and after rehabilitation among underserved groups. Previous research indicates that the relationship between race/ethnicity and functional outcomes is not well understood in the SCI population. This study examines the association between socioeconomic indicators and health risk behaviors on functioning and whether these factors are valid explanations for functional disparities that affect quality of life among racially/ethnically diverse groups with SCI.

Jeanne Zanca, PhD, MPT, senior research scientist, and Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD, director of SCI Research, received a one-year grant for $93,511 for 'Mind-Body Interventions for Self-Management of Pain Post-SCI: A Pilot Study.' Pain is a highly prevalent and disabling condition among persons with SCI. Low-risk, low-cost treatments capable of addressing residual pain and pain-related disability are greatly needed. This pilot study looks at the feasibility, acceptability, and potential benefits of a mind-body intervention program of guided imagery and meditation--techniques that offer empowering self-management strategies to persons with pain post-SCI.

Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, director of Neuroscience, Neuropsychology & TBI Research, and Dr. Dyson-Hudson received a three-year $250,000 sub award from the James J. Peters VA Medical Center (Jill Wecht, EdD, principal investigator) to study 'Blood Pressure, Cerebral Blood Flow and Cognition in SCI'. Following SCI, autonomic regulation of the cardiovascular system is impaired, which results in hypotension. Evidence supports associations between chronic hypotension and adverse changes in mood, cognitive function and increased morbidity and mortality. This study tests the effects of the blood pressure medication midodrine on cognitive function in the SCI population.

Dr. Zanca was also awarded a $16,000 grant to conduct a free educational conference in Fall 2014for individuals with SCI, their families, and interested healthcare professionals.


About Craig Neilsen Foundation

Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is dedicated to supporting research and innovative rehabilitation programs to improve the quality of life for those with SCI. Along with supporting researchers in the field of SCI, the Foundation also offers grants to qualifying non-profit §501(c)(3) organizations that assist people living with SCI.

About SCI Research at Kessler Foundation

SCI Research studies aim to prevent the loss of function, restore lost functions, and eliminate medical complications in individuals with SCI with The ultimate goal to improve quality of life. SCI Research is led by Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD, director, and Steven Kirshblum, MD, medical director and director of SCI Services at Kessler Institute. Staff includes Drs. Botticello, Fyffe, and Zanca, and Rachel Byrne, MA, Tiara Brown, Nicolette Cobbold and LeighAnn Martinez. At the center of SCI Research is a grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research designating our program a Spinal Cord Injury Model System (SCIMS) of care. The Northern New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury System (NNJSCIS) has been a SCIMS Center since 1990 and is one of only 14 such designated Centers in the US. NNJSCIS is a cooperative effort of Kessler Foundation, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and University Hospital in Newark.

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

Carolann Murphy, PA

Lauren Scrivo
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