Kessler Foundation awarded major federal grant to study holistic approach to improving outcomes for traumatic brain injury and dementia

Denise Krch, PhD
Dr. Krch conducts research on cognitive
rehabilitation across neurologic populations, with
an emphasis on cognitive reserve, caregiver
burden, and the use of virtual reality technology
in cognitive rehabilitation. Fluent in Spanish, she
investigates outcomes in Hispanics after brain
injury and the efficacy of cognitive rehabilitation
interventions across Hispanic cultures.

Denise Krch, PhD, leads multi-site study testing the effectiveness of a group-based treatment designed to provide individuals and their caregivers with long-lasting skills for managing the impact of traumatic brain injury and dementia.

East Hanover, NJ – February 14, 2022 – Denise Krch, PhD, senior research scientist in the Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Research at Kessler Foundation, has been awarded a $2,799,992 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Army Medical Research & Development Command, Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), Peer Reviewed Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program (PRARP). The award funds a four-year study titled, “Teaching Self-Management Skills to Improve Self-Efficacy and Quality of Life for Caregiver Dyads in TBI and Dementia Populations.”

As common causes of long-term disability and caregiver burden, traumatic brain injury and dementia are targets for innovative interventions with the potential to improve quality of life for individuals and their caregivers. Researchers will test the effectiveness of WeCAN (Wellness, Coping, & Adaptation for Neurocognitive Conditions), a nonpharmacologic, group-based treatment designed to teach long-lasting management skills to each dyad, or patient and caregiver pair. Researchers will also seek to identify behavioral, neuroimaging, and blood biomarkers that correlate with treatment efficacy.

The randomized, controlled trial will be conducted at three sites, with a different clinical population targeted at each site. Kessler Foundation will enroll 60 individuals with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury, Franciscan Health (Indiana) will enroll 60 individuals with mil traumatic brain injury, and the University of Michigan will 60 enroll individuals with mixed dementia. A total of 180 dyads, i.e., patient/caregiver pairs, will be randomized to a 12-week protocol of either WeCan or another wellness support group.  

According to Dr. Krch, WeCAN is broadly applicable to a variety of populations and roles.

“Unlike acute interventions that target the individual, WeCan is designed to engage both the individual and their caregiver in actively learning to modify their behaviors,” Dr. Krch explained. “This holistic approach positions each caregiver dyad to work as a team to gain the skills they need to adapt successfully to the long-term challenges of daily living. The unique design of this intervention and the broad scope of this trial have the potential to transform how we manage traumatic brain injury and dementia in the future.”


Opinions, interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the Department of Defense.

Funding: Department of Defense, U.S. Army Medical Research & Development Command (USAMRDC), Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), Peer Reviewed Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program (PRARP) Leveraging Approaches for Innovation in Care and Support Award # W81XWH-21-10743.

For information on ongoing rehabilitation research studies at Kessler Foundation, contact: [email protected].

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.

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Carolann Murphy, senior medical writer,973.324.8382, [email protected]

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