Public Release: 

Kessler Foundation scientist awarded $198,000 for neuroimaging study of recovery after SCI

Kessler Foundation

WEST ORANGE, N.J.--August 11, 2015--The New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research awarded $198,000 over two years to Zhiguo (Tony) Jiang, Ph.D., research scientist at Kessler Foundation, to examine the efficacy of using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in assessing recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI). Results may enable medical professionals to predict motor recovery and provide more accurate prognoses.

DTI, an advanced, non-invasive form of MRI technology, measures the diffusion of water elements in nerve fibers to detect structural changes above and below the level of injury. The study funds 150 MRI scans at the Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center at Kessler Foundation--the only free-standing imaging center in the U.S. solely dedicated to rehabilitation research.

"In addition to physical challenges, a spinal cord injury can also impose significant financial and emotional burdens on the individual and the family," said John DeLuca, Ph.D., senior vice president of Research and Training and director of the Ortenzio Center. "We are seeing advancements in recovery following rehabilitation, but little objective evidence. Using neuroimaging, we can document how the spinal cord recovers. With this knowledge, we can determine the best course of treatment and provide better assessments of functional recovery so individuals can properly prepare for the months and years ahead."

Individuals with incomplete SCI enrolled in the study will receive standard rehabilitative therapies. DTI measurements will be taken at baseline and one, two, four and six months after the treatment program. It is expected that structural integrity will be compromised in individuals with SCI compared with controls. In addition, integrity of the fiber structure is expected to improve with spontaneous recovery and rehabilitation. Improvement in integrity should correspond with improved mobility in the individual with SCI.

Unlike traditional neurological tests, neuroimaging can assess function below the level of injury. While progress has been made in imaging of the brain, spinal cord imaging remains a new frontier in research and clinical practice. Obtaining detailed pictures of the spinal cord is difficult due to its thin and flexible nature. Researchers at Kessler Foundation are exploring various techniques and imaging methods to advance applications of spinal cord imaging.

There are 12,000 new cases of SCI in the U.S. each year. The average lifetime costs of a single injury can be in the millions.


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 Follow Kessler Foundation on Facebook, Twitter (@KesslerFdn) and YouTube.

About Mobility Research at Kessler Foundation

Mobility research is a wide-ranging collaborative effort of Human Performance & Engineering Research, Spinal Cord Injury Research, the Neuroimaging Center and Stroke Rehabilitation Research. Kessler Foundation is one of 14 federally funded SCI model systems. The Northern New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury System (NNJSCIS) has been an SCIMS Center since 1990. NNJSCIS is a cooperative effort of Kessler Foundation, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and University Hospital in Newark. Clinical studies utilize innovative modalities including functional electrical stimulation, robotics and treadmill training as well as a medication (dalfampridine, Ampyra). Scientists also investigate optimal wheelchair use, prevention of secondary medical complications and barriers to community and workforce participation. Funders include the Department of Defense, NJ Commission on SCI Research, Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living & Rehabilitation Research, Veterans Administration, Acorda Therapeutics, and Kessler Foundation. Scientists have faculty appointment at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School.

About Neuroimaging Research at Kessler Foundation

The advanced neuroimaging capabilities of the Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center at Kessler Foundation help scientists develop new ways to aid recovery from disabling illnesses and injuries. The Center's 3T Siemens Skyra scanner offers a variety of techniques for investigating anatomy, function and connectivity in traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and stroke, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional MRI and diffusion tensor imaging. Kessler Foundation is in the forefront of research looking at connectivity not only in the brain but also in the spinal cord. Scientists apply specialized neuroimaging methods that analyze chemical composition to detect tissue damage, and to measure blood flow, an important indicator for brain activity. This research-dedicated Center is increasing our fundamental knowledge of factors that contribute to disability, such as cognitive fatigue, spatial neglect, and disorders of emotional processing, executive function and processing speed. Neuroimaging also documents the effects of interventions, such as cognitive training, exo-assisted walking and exercise. Collaborative research is conducted under the leadership of John DeLuca, Ph.D., director, Glenn Wylie, D.Phil, associate director, and Brian Yao, Ph.D., medical physicist.


Lauren Scrivo, 973.768.6583,
Carolann Murphy, 973.324.8382,

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