VCU receives federal grant to develop interventions to help survivors and couples in the aftermath of traumatic brain injury

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Virginia Commonwealth University has received a $2.2 million grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation-United States Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services to develop and evaluate treatment interventions for traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients – who often suffer for years from secondary results of the injury – and for their caregivers.
In the United States, TBI is increasingly being recognized as an epidemic, with 1.7 million injuries diagnosed annually. Following a TBI, people commonly experience neurobehavioral, marital, family, academic, cognitive, employment and other difficulties. Injury aftereffects can persist for years.

Through the five-year project, the VCU team will examine two interventions – one will focus on how best to improve the resiliency and adjustment of survivors following TBI, while the other will address the needs of couples in the aftermath of TBI. Experts agree that strengthening caregivers and relationships can enhance rehabilitation outcomes, and more evidence is needed to appreciate the benefits. The hope is that data collected from VCU research projects will provide a better understanding of strategies to enhance recovery.  

“Our clinical research will be used to help people with traumatic brain injury return to more productive and satisfying lives,” said Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, Ph.D., co-principal investigator and professor in the VCU Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R).

“This new award will help us leverage a parallel research project from the Department of Veterans Affairs that we also have here in Richmond to study TBI in service members and veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts,” said co-principal investigator David X. Cifu, M.D., professor and chair in VCU the Department of PM&R and National Director of PM&R for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

For more than 30 years, VCU has been engaged in developing specialized interdisciplinary brain injury programs. Experts here have developed specialized intensive medical and rehabilitative care protocols, return-to-work programs for people with severe disabilities, survivor and family education and support programs.

VCU’s leadership in rehabilitative science was part of the reason it was awarded a $20 million Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health in 2010 to become part of a nationwide consortium of research institutions working to turn laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients.