Kessler Foundation Scientists Receive $1.2 million in Grants to Advance Traumatic Brain Injury Research

New Jersey Commission on Brain Injury Research supports initiatives to help train caregivers and better understand post-TBI spatial neglect and adolescent sleep disorders

East Hanover, NJ – May 1, 2024 – Kessler Foundation scientists received three significant grants from the New Jersey Commission on Brain Injury Research to further investigate traumatic brain injury (TBI) rehabilitation. The grants, totaling more than $1.2 million, will fund new research initiatives focused on improving sleep disorders for adolescents after TBI, behavioral and brain changes in individuals with spatial neglect, and a training program for TBI caregivers.

Kessler scientists (from left) Anthony Lequerica, PhD,
Peii Chen, PhD, and Aubree Alexander (not pictured)
received grants from the New Jersey Commission on
Brain Injury Research to advance TBI research.

A $435,689 grant will fund a study by Anthony Lequerica, PhD, senior research scientist in the Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Research, titled “Sleep-Wake Objective Measurement of Adolescents Navigating Traumatic Brain Injury.”

TBI often results in disruption of brain processes involved in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. Dr. Lequerica's study aims to investigate sleep patterns to understand their importance for adolescents recovering from TBI. This research can help individuals with TBI achieve their treatment goals more effectively during rehabilitation.

“This study will pave the way for future research to make objective sleep-wake measurement a routine part of clinical care for adolescents with TBI,” explained Dr. Lequerica. “It may help identify those in need of further evaluation and develop better treatments to improve inpatient rehabilitation experiences and long-term outcomes.”

A second grant, totaling $536,728, will support a study led by Peii (Peggy) Chen, PhD, senior research scientist in the Center for Stroke Rehabilitation Research and director of the Center’s Spatial Attention, Awareness, and Ability Laboratory. The awarded project, titled “Time Course and Impact of Spatial Neglect on Brain Injury Recovery,” will be the first prospective, longitudinal study to understand the behavioral and brain changes over time in individuals with spatial neglect after TBI.

Spatial neglect occurs in approximately 30% of individuals who receive inpatient rehabilitation care after TBI. “We plan to establish the timeline, clinical impacts, and neural mechanisms of spatial neglect in people who sustained moderate-to-severe TBI,” said Dr. Chen. “Our findings may encourage researchers and clinicians to further investigate TBI-specific interventions for spatial neglect.”

A third grant, totaling $260,216, will fund a project run by Aubree Alexander, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research under the mentorship of Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD. Dr. Alexander’s program titled “PUPIL (Play, Understand, Partner, Interact, and Learn),” will be an adjunct to the Kessler Foundation modified Story Memory Technique (KF-mSMT®) that addresses the need for accessible and affordable cognitive rehabilitation interventions that engage and train caregivers alongside individuals with TBI.

The PUPIL program features an educational caregiver curriculum and a board game aimed at promoting the use of cognitive strategies by individuals with TBI and their caregivers. “The ultimate goal is to involve caregivers in the cognitive rehabilitation of their loved ones by educating them on strategies learned in treatment and empowering them to support the application of these strategies in daily life,” explained Dr. Alexander.

“This initiative offers accessible, affordable, and engaging activities to practice at home,” she added. “It has the potential to develop into a more widely used intervention that can benefit individuals with TBI, their family members, and caregivers,” Dr. Alexander concluded.

Funding: New Jersey Brain Injury Commission (Grants: CBIR24IRG017, CBIR24IRG009, CBIR24FEL015)

About the New Jersey Brain Injury Commission
The New Jersey Commission on Brain Injury Research promotes the necessary research that will result in the treatment and cure for traumatic injuries of the brain, thereby giving hope to an ever-increasing number of residents who suffer the debilitating effects of this injury. To achieve these goals the Commission will encourage and promote significant, original research projects in New Jersey emphasizing nerve regeneration as a means to a cure for brain injury through the funding of approved research projects at qualifying research institutions in the state. In addition, the Commission will establish and maintain, in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Health, a central registry of all persons who sustain traumatic brain injuries. For more information, visit

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research. Our scientists seek to improve cognition, mobility, and long-term outcomes, including employment, for adults and children with neurological and developmental disabilities of the brain and spinal cord including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and autism. Kessler Foundation also leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit

For more information, contact:
Deb Hauss, [email protected]
Carolann Murphy, [email protected]

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