Scientists & Research

john delucaKessler Foundation improves the quality of life for people with physical and cognitive disabilities through rehabilitation research in its six specialized laboratories under the leadership of noted research directors—Human Performance & Engineering Research, Neuropsychology & Neuroscience, Outcomes & Assessment Research, Spinal Cord Injury Research, Stroke Rehabilitation Research, and Traumatic Brain Injury Research.  While the staff of each laboratory has expertise in a particular area, collaboration often enhances progress toward finding ways to overcome the obstacles faced by people with disabilities caused by brain injury, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke, arthritis, and other chronic neurological and orthopedic conditions.  

Two federal Model System grants establish Kessler Foundation as a center of excellence for both traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spinal cord injury (SCI) research. Model Systems are comprehensive networks that promote independent and collaborative research that will improve the national standard of care for individuals with these devastating injuries. Model Systems are funded by large, multi-year grants sponsored by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research. While there are 14 model SCI systems and 16 TBI model systems in the US, Kessler Foundation is one of only eight centers to have dual model systems—Northern New Jersey SCI System and Northern New Jersey TBI System. These model systems are collaborative efforts with Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.  

Kessler Foundation is staffed by investigators with advanced degrees in a variety of disciplines including neuroscience, neuropsychology, neurology, bioengineering, public health, employment research, education and rehabilitation medicine. Research findings are reported at national and international meetings and in the medical and scientific literature. In 2010 alone, Kessler Foundation researchers published more than 60 articles in medical and scientific journals including Stroke, International Journal of Health Psychology, Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine, Brain & Cognition, Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, Neuropsychology, Cognitive & Behavioral Neurology, Journal of Biomechanics, Journal of the Neurological Sciences,  and Disability and Rehabilitation. 

Current grant funding includes: National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, New Jersey SCI Research Commission, New Jersey Brain Injury Commission, Kessler Foundation, the Hearst Foundation, and many more.

Kessler Foundation, in conjunction with the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, offers fellowship training for scientists and clinicians who are committed to careers in rehabilitation research. Kessler Foundation’s researchers work closely with the patients and staff at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation to identify the needs of people undergoing rehabilitation and to recruit participants for its clinical studies. For more information on participating in research studies, read Kessler Foundation's "Research and You" brochure. 

The Research Laboratories: 

Human Performance and Engineering Research: Research projects focus on helping people with weakness and paralysis caused by stroke or spinal cord injuries to regain their mobility by improving their ability to stand and walk and developing more efficient means of wheelchair locomotion. Research projects focus on applying engineering principles to devise better rehabilitation strategies for people with balance problems, joint abnormalities, and spasticity caused by brain injury, stroke, spinal injury, and arthritis. 

Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research: Research projects focus on developing interventions for people whose cognition—the ability to think, learn, and remember—has been impaired by multiple sclerosis, stroke, or traumatic brain injury. 

Outcomes & Assessment Research: Outcomes and assessment research measures and evaluates factors that affect the everyday activities, health, and quality of life of persons with disabilities.  This research establishes the evidence base that supports the development of effective rehabilitation interventions.

Spinal Cord Injury Research: Research focuses on optimizing acute and chronic care for people with spinal cord injury, facilitating active community involvement and access to care, improving quality of life, and reducing the risk of secondary medical complications such as pressure ulcers, urinary tract infections, chronic pain, and cardiovascular disease.

Stroke Rehabilitation Research: Research projects center on developing effective strategies for long-term rehabilitation for individuals with complications of stroke, including difficulties with speech, visual perception, cognition, and mobility.

Traumatic Brain Injury Research: Research projects focus on rehabilitation needs of people who have disabilities caused by traumatic brain injury, including cognitive dysfunction, behavioral problems, spasticity, and deficits in motor function.  A new focus is the use of genetic testing to tailor treatments for optimal outcomes.