Kessler Foundation MS Researcher Awarded $70,000 Fellowship to Investigate Cognitive Function

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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Silvana L. Costa, PhD from the Kessler Foundation, was recently awarded a Switzer Research Fellowship by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). Dr. Costa is a Hearst Fellow in Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler, where she investigates cognitive deficits in multiple sclerosis (MS).

The Merit Fellowship, a $70,000 award, will be used to fund her study, “Processing Speed Deficits in Multiple Sclerosis: Exploring the Complex Sensorial Cognitive Motor Interaction.”

110529_webSwitzer Research Merit Fellowships are given to scientists with advanced training or experience but in the earlier stages of their careers, and its goal is to advance research into areas serving rehabilitation and individuals with disabilities. Of the six Merit Fellowships granted in 2015 by NIDILRR, two were conferred to scientists at the Kessler Foundation.

“Traditionally, Information processing speed has been considered a single cognitive factor,” said Dr. Costa in a press release. “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.”

MS is a chronic demyelinating and inflammatory neurological disease, classically considered the most physically disabling non-traumatic neurological condition in young adults. In the last years, many studies have described cognitive dysfunction is MS patients, which contributes significantly to their disability status. Cognitive impairment occurs in 40 percent to 65 percent of MS patients, typically involving complex attention, information processing speed, (episodic) memory, and executive functions.

The Kessler Foundation is a nonprofit organization working to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities caused by disease or injury.

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