Kessler Foundation Press Releases


Sumowski Receives NIH Grant to Study Multiple Sclerosis

2011-03-16 14:21:49 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 James Sumowski, Ph.D., of the Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Lab, received the R00 award of $699,000 to continue his research to prevent declines in thinking, learning and memory in MS.

September 15, 2010. WEST ORANGE, N.J.—Kessler Foundation Research Scientist James F. Sumowski, Ph.D., received the R00 award, the second phase of the "Pathways to Independence Award", from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Wednesday. The grant, dedicated to continuing Dr. Sumowski's research on how to prevent mental decline from multiple sclerosis (MS), totals $669,000 over the next three years.

"I'm very excited to receive the R00 award," said Dr. Sumowski. "The results should allow us to better predict which individuals with MS are at risk for cognitive problems. They can then, hopefully, be enrolled in early intervention to prevent decline in thinking, learning and memory."

The NIH awards are designed to develop the careers of young, newly independent and mid-career scientists to expand their research and mentorship. Dr. Sumowski first received phase one of the Pathways to Independence Award, K99. That one-year grant enabled him to study the reasons why some individuals with MS experience declines in their ability to think, learn and remember while others remain unaffected.

Dr. Sumowski, along with his Kessler Foundation mentors Glenn R. Wylie, D.Phil., Nancy Chiaravalloti, Ph.D., and John DeLuca, Ph.D., Vice President of Research, discovered that people who have mentally active lifestyles are less likely to experience cognitive decline as a result of MS. Reading, learning and performing other tasks build connections in the brain so when one connection is damaged, the brain can compensate and retrieve information through the other connections.

For the R00 grant, Dr. Sumowski looks to identify the neural basis of cognitive reserve—how and where the brain learns new information and builds connections. He will use functional MRI (fMRI), which captures brain images as the individual performs thinking tasks. By identifying this location and its properties, individuals at risk for cognitive decline may be identified and treated to prevent this debilitating condition.

NIH chooses award recipients based on the impact of their proposed research, how the research differs from past studies, the ability of the researcher to perform the task independently and the research and training environment of the facility.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation strives to be a leader in rehabilitation research and grant making that benefit people with disabilities. The Foundation's mission is to improve quality of life for people with physical and/or cognitive disabilities through discovery, innovation, demonstration, application, and dissemination. Kessler Foundation Research Center conducts research that improves function and quality of life for persons with injuries of the spinal cord and brain, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other chronic neurological and orthopedic conditions. Kessler Foundation also supports programs that promote the employment of people with disabilities through its Program Center's "Transition to Work" Signature and Community Employment Grants. The Foundation's Special Initiative Grants support educational programs like 'ThinkFirst', an injury prevention program aimed at children and teens. Kessler Foundation has a full-time staff of 90 individuals, divided between two locations in West Orange, New Jersey.

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