Center for Traumatic Brain Injury

Jean Lengenfelder, PhD, TBI researcher pictured with black background and brain scan displayed

Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Research

Maximizing Independence After Traumatic Brain Injury

After traumatic brain injury (TBI), life changes forever for individuals and families. Through research, we develop new ways to help individuals recover cognitive function and mobility, and equip families and caregivers with the long-term support they need to adjust to living with brain injury. 

Laboratory Leadership

Northern New Jersey Traumatic Brain Injury System

Kessler Foundation, in collaboration with Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, is designated as a federally funded Traumatic Brain Injury Model System (TBIMS) of care. The TBIMS program is a national network of care and research that follows individuals from the time of injury through rehabilitation, return to school and the community, and aging with TBI. One of 16 TBI model systems, the Northern New Jersey TBI System (NNJTBIS) fosters collaborative research that addresses the lifelong needs of the TBI community, translates findings into clinical care, and provides resources for individuals with TBI and their caregivers.    

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Kessler Foundation K step and repeat background image

Advancing Cognitive Rehabilitation Through Research

Individuals with TBI can have difficulty in their daily lives because of persistent deficits in their abilities to think, learn, and remember. These deficits can be disabling, interfering with their participation in school, work, and community activities, complicating caregiving, and negatively impacting their overall quality of life. Researchers are finding effective ways to treat these deficits and increase quality of life for individuals and families.

Satisfaction with Life for TBI pre and post KF intervention


This graph displays the changes in satisfaction with daily life, or quality of life, for two participants with traumatic brain injury, following their participation in a Kessler Foundation intervention study.

Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD administering Modified Story Memory Technique (mSMT) to research participant

Improving Everyday Life Through Behavioral Therapy

Managing the care of individuals with moderate to severe TBI presents major challenges in rehabilitative care. Treatments that are noninvasive, nonpharmacological and easy to administer can be a cost-effective approach to improving cognitive function. Researchers tested a behavioral therapy shown to improve learning and memory in multiple sclerosis, and found similar effects in individuals with TBI, as well as improvements in their ability to function in everyday life. This modified Story Memory Technique (mSMT) protocol, developed by Nancy Chiaravalloti, PhD, and her team, is available in Spanish and Chinese.

Brain scans

MRI brain scan images displaying the differences in brain activation from before (left) to after (right) emotional processing treatment across two participants with traumatic brain injury. After treatment, increased activation is noted in the frontal and parietal regions. This data helps researchers to evaluate both behavioral and functional changes.

Studying Ways to Improve Emotional Processing

Being unable to interpret the facial expressions of others is associated with several neurological conditions, including TBI and MS. Scientists are studying new ways to treat this emotional processing deficit, which leads to problems in social situations and interpersonal relationships. Using neuroimaging, behavioral changes are correlated with brain activation patterns, providing objective evidence for the effectiveness of new treatments. A computerized training program under development may prove effective for improving social functioning in the community, the workplace, and at home, and enhance quality of life.

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Denise Krch, PhD holding virtual reality device that is used in research

Applying Virtual Reality to Rehabilitation Research

Virtual reality offers a new approach to engaging individuals in interactive programs aimed at improving cognitive and physical function in individuals with TBI, as well as in the aging population and stroke survivors. VR technology offers a way to engage people safely in a simulated environment where they can gain be motivated to gain skills that are relevant to real life. Collaborative studies are underway on VR- based tools for assessing cognitive function, for treating cognitive impairments, and for improving balance deficits in individuals with TBI.

Combatting Disabling Cognitive Fatigue

Individuals with neurological damage often report a lack of mental energy, called cognitive fatigue that interferes with their ability to perform daily activities. Using neuroimaging techniques, researchers are learning more about the underlying mechanisms of cognitive fatigue in TBI, as well as in the MS population and veterans with Gulf War Illness. This understanding is fundamental to the development and testing of new behavioral interventions that can help individuals combat the disabling effects of fatigue.

Audio Description

Ekaterina Dobryakova, PhD, discusses cognitive fatigue and traumatic brain injury at the Neurotrauma Conference.

Volunteers Join a Study

Volunteers are the Heart of Research

Provide your information below and someone from our recruitment team will contact you about research opportunities. Learn more.

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Join a Study Form

Volunteers are the Heart of Our Research

Provide your information below and someone from our recruitment team will contact you about research opportunities.Learn more.

Join a Study

Participant Pete Welch holding his son, Patrick, on the beach

Embracing Fatherhood After TBI

Your support makes all the difference for people like Pete Welch who live with disabilities. After sustaining a traumatic brain injury, Pete participated in Kessler Foundation research. He now reflects on how your support helped him live to the fullest with his family.

Isabella Sementilli

One Tough Cookie—and Generous Donor, Too

Brain injury survivor, Isabella Sementilli, found new passions after her injury in 2013. Now 17, Isabella bakes and sells cookies to support causes she cares about—including Kessler Foundation.