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November 01, 2013

Craig Hospital research updates

The Craig Hospital Research Department, with a current staff of 19, oversees a $3.5 million annual budget in federal, state, corporate, and foundation grants devoted to conducting a wide variety of applied spinal cord (SCI) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) rehabilitation research. In addition, funds raised from the annual PUSH Dinner and other donations support basic and clinical research. Over the past several years, funding from the Craig Hospital Foundation has supported four TBI pilot research projects:

Home-Based Virtual Reality (VR) Treatment for Chronic Balance Problems in Adults with TBI

The development of an affordable, effective balance intervention that individuals with TBI are able to independently and safely perform over an extended period of time—even years after injury—has the potential to significantly improve balance and the ability to engage in other healthy physical activities while decreasing the risk of falls. The foundation-funded pilot study found that TBI patient’s balance impairments improved similarly with both traditional therapies and VR technology paradigms while they were undergoing inpatient rehabilitation. This finding suggested that VR technology may provide a viable method for improving balance after TBI. A large scale randomized controlled trial to test this hypothesis was submitted as part of Craig Hospital TBI Model Systems grant and was funded for five years. A manuscript of the pilot study has been accepted for publication.

Improving Well Being after TBI through Structured Volunteer Activity

Volunteering has been found to be positively related to psychological health, happiness, life satisfaction, and self-esteem. Volunteering may enhance resilience to emotional distress, which could be therapeutic for improving emotional adjustment after TBI. A small sample of individuals with a history of TBI completed a three-month volunteer intervention after which they exhibited a reduction of overall emotional distress and an improvement of well-being, life satisfaction, and sense of purpose. All participants willingly continued to volunteer following completion of the study. This study was also submitted as part of Craig Hospital TBI Model Systems grant and was funded as a large scale randomized controlled trial.

Supported Versus Dynamic Seating in Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury and Effects on Function: A Pilot Study

This recently-completed study found that hemiplegic participants who were positioned in a more upright seated posture with a firmer base of support were able to push their wheelchairs faster than those who were positioned in a more supported seating position. This finding has important clinical implications for appropriately fitting wheelchairs for individuals with hemiplegia. A manuscript summarizing the findings has been prepared and will be submitted for publication.

Errorless Learning for Training Use of Planner in Traumatic Brain Injury Patients who are in Post Traumatic Amnesia: A Pilot Study

This study focused on training individuals with TBI who were confused and amnesic to refer to a planner book for orientation information. The study had promising results but was difficult to conduct within the context of multiple other concurrent TBI clinical research trials at Craig Hospital. Options for conducting this study at Craig’s TBI Model System partner facilities are being considered.