Kessler Foundation Press Releases

Weber receives grant to study cognitive screening for persons with spinal cord injury

Photo head-shot of Dr. Erica Weber

The New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research awarded a $592,000 grant to Erica Weber, PhD, of Kessler Foundation, to participate in a multi-site study of the development of a cognitive assessment tool for individuals with spinal cord injury. 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., June 3, 2019. -- Erica Weber, PhD, research scientist in the Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Research at Kessler Foundation, was awarded a $592,000 grant by the New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research to conduct a study entitled, "Development and Validation of an Abbreviated Cognitive Screening Battery for Individuals with SCI," in collaboration with Craig Hospital and the University of Washington.

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 by the Commission to the Foundation, totaling $1.74 million.

Researchers have discovered a high prevalence of deficits in learning and memory in the population of persons with spinal cord injury. More attention is being paid to these cognitive difficulties which interfere with the daily lives of persons with spinal cord injury, adversely affecting their ability to benefit from rehabilitation, how independently they are able to care for themselves, and how well they can re-integrate into their communities and the workplace. Despite these implications, cognitive assessment is not routinely conducted in these individuals, according to Dr. Weber.

With this grant, Kessler researchers will lead a multi-site study to develop and test a brief cognitive screening tool, assembled from portions of common, well-regarded, neuropsychological tests that are not dependent on arm and hand function. A total of 240 participants will be recruited by three sites: two current Spinal Cord Injury Model System (SCIMS) sites--Kessler Foundation (Northern New Jersey SCI System) and Craig Hospital in Denver, CO (Rocky Mountain Regional SCI System) -- and the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, a former SCIMS site. Drawing on the collective expertise of this SCIMS-based team, the abbreviated test battery will undergo rigorous testing within the context of ongoing assessment and follow-up after spinal cord injury.

"Based on our prior research, we anticipate that this study protocol will yield a cost-effective, easy to administer assessment tool that will allow cognitive screening to become part of routine assessment and follow-up of individuals with spinal cord injury," said Dr. Weber. "Identifying cognitive deficits will enable individuals to receive the care they need to achieve their goal of maximal independence."

Funded by New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research grant CSGR19IRG021

About the New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Injury 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 on Kessler Foundation's research, visit

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