Kessler Foundation Press Releases

Chiaravalloti receives grant to study cognition and hemodynamics after spinal cord injury

Photo of participant in a wheelchair, while researcher takes notes

The New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research awarded a $598,000 grant to Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, of Kessler Foundation. The grant is one of three awarded by the Commission to Foundation scientists this year for spinal cord injury research, totaling $1.74 million.

East Hanover, N.J., MAY 31, 2019. — Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, director of the Centers for Neuropsychology, Neuroscience and Traumatic Brain Injury Research at Kessler Foundation, was awarded a $598,000 grant by the New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research to conduct a study entitled, “Longitudinal Changes in Cognition and Hemodynamics in Individuals with Spinal Cord Injury.”

In April 2019, the Commission announced $3.4 million in grants to successful applicants from qualified research organizations in New Jersey. This grant is one of three individual research grants awarded to the Foundation, totaling $1.74 million.

For the population with spinal cord injury, aging carries increased risks for age-associated diseases as compared with the non-injured aging population. This grant will enable Dr. Chiaravalloti’s group to extend their research into the relationship between cardiovascular and cerebrovascular dysfunction and poorer cognitive performance in persons with spinal cord injury. “Our research shows that deficits in learning and memory are prevalent in this population,” noted Dr. Chiaravalloti. “Understanding how cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and cognitive function change over time in this population will help us develop ways to prevent or minimize the impact of these functional deficits.”  

Researchers will compare the longitudinal changes in individuals with SCI with those in age-matched healthy controls at 3 to 5 years and 6 to 8 years following their initial cognitive evaluation. They will look at the relationships between cognitive dysfunction and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular dysfunction, and compare the regional patterns of cerebral activation in groups using fMRI. 

Dr. Chiaravalloti’s group will also assess the incidence of dementia. “Few studies have addressed this issue,” she added, “and this longitudinal study presents a good opportunity. It is particularly important to understand this population’s relative risk for dementia given the prevalence of cognitive deficits, compounded by the potential effects of aging.”

“We anticipate that our findings will ultimately lead to the development of effective interventions that will promote greater independence, increased social integration, and improved overall quality of life for people living with spinal cord injury,” Dr. Chiaravalloti concluded.

Funded by New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research grant CSGR19IRG019

About the New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research

The New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research, whose members are appointed by the Governor, was established on September 13, 1999, with the passage of the "Spinal Cord Research Act" by the New Jersey State Legislature. The Commission's mission is to ensure that the people of New Jersey receive the utmost attention and benefit in our nation's fight against spinal cord injury and disease through its promotion of research into the treatment and cure. The Commission was created to encourage and promote significant, original research projects in New Jersey through the funding of approved research projects at qualifying research institutions in the State. In addition, the Commission maintains, in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Health, a central registry of all persons who sustain spinal cord injuries.

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

For more information on Kessler Foundation's research, visit
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