New Jersey Health Foundation Awards $70,000 to Kessler Foundation Researchers Studying MS and Stroke

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by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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Two researchers at Kessler Foundation were awarded grants of $35,000 each by the New Jersey Health Foundation to pursue their investigations into new ways to improve rehabilitative care for disabilities caused by multiple sclerosis (MS) and stroke.

One of the awardees was Katie Lancaster, PhD, a Hearst Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Research at Kessler Foundation. The one-year grant will support her project “A Social Emotion Regulation Intervention in Multiple Sclerosis,” which seeks new strategies to reduce feeling of stress, anxiety, and depression — common among people dealing with chronic diseases — in those with MS.

Lancaster’s project will specifically investigate a novel intervention that’s based on social regulation of emotion. In this approach, individuals will be taught how they can get more emotional benefits from the social support structures they already have in place.

Social regulation of emotion has been shown to be effective in some populations, but it has never been studied specifically in people with MS. Because the approach involves teaching skills that individuals can carry with them for the rest of their lives, this strategy is likely to be an especially resource-efficient one. Lancaster’s goal is to reduce emotional burdens, and increase quality of life, among MS patients.

The second awardee researcher was Vikram Shenoy Handiru, PhD, an associate research scientist in the Center for Mobility and Rehabilitation Engineering Research at Kessler Foundation, for his project titled “Targeted Noninvasive Brain Stimulation for Improving the Hand Dexterity in Stroke Patients.”

Shenoy Handiru’s project aims to combine brain stimulation and hand exercises to help people who have had strokes regain dexterity and hand function. This combo approach represents a novel strategy that, it is hoped, will maximize patients’ potential for recovery by taking advantage of some of the nervous system’s natural abilities to adapt and recover.

“These awards for Drs. Shenoy Handiru and Lancaster not only support their individual projects, they support our commitment to training future generations of rehabilitation researchers,” John DeLuca, PhD, Kessler’s senior vice president for research and training, said in a press release.

“Our postdoctoral fellowship training program has launched the careers of many leaders in rehabilitation research. It is gratifying to see the New Jersey Health Foundation recognize the potential for these young investigators to change the lives of people with disabilities,” he said.

The Health Foundation grants are designed to help scientists leverage their preliminary findings to qualify for major funding to advance their research. 

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