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Kessler Foundation Awarded Three Grants for Spinal Cord Injury Research Studies

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wheelchair-usersCraig H. Neilsen Foundation supports studies addressing the environmental barriers, chronic pain and racial disparities that affect individuals with spinal cord injury

EAST HANOVER, NJ. February 5, 2021. Kessler Foundation scientists received three spinal cord injury research grants from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to ensure that researchers have the capacity to complete projects delayed by the pandemic. The grants, which total nearly $113,000, were awarded to Amanda Botticello, PhD, MPH, Denise Fyffe, PhD, and Jeanne Zanca, PhD, MPT, who conduct research in the Center for Spinal Cord Injury Research and the Center for Outcomes and Assessment Research.

“Early during the pandemic, many of our research studies were temporarily put on hold in order to follow government stay-at-home guidelines and minimize risk to our participants,” said Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD, director of the Centers for Spinal Cord Injury Research and Outcomes and Assessment Research. “Neilsen Foundation recognized these challenges and generously provided additional supplemental support to ensure that we can successfully complete these projects in spite of the delays. This is another great example of how partnering with the Neilsen Foundation has enabled us to make measurable progress toward improving the lives of people living with spinal cord injury.”

Amanda Botticello, PhD, MPH, assistant director, received $43,596 in funding for her continued study titled, “Mapping Context for a Better Understanding of Community Integration and Participation after Spinal Cord Injury.” People living with chronic paralysis after a spinal cord injury (SCI) often experience community integration and participation barriers. The study seeks to understand the role of the environment to address those barriers. Going forward, the project will incorporate assessments of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on social isolation and identify areas to improve interventions for people with disabilities during future public health crises.

wheelchair-usersDenise Fyffe, PhD, senior research scientist, received supplemental funding of $35,000 to support her project titled, “Exploring Racial/Ethnic Contextual Factors Associated with Functional Independence in Spinal Cord Injury.” Racially/ethnically diverse persons with SCI may not engage in functional independence activities due to personal, cultural, and contextual factors. This study seeks to determine the factors that impact their self-care and independence by utilizing new technologies to collect wheelchair usage data on participants’ mobility at home and in the community. The goal is to develop recommendations for culturally-sensitive interventions that promote self-management and lead to community-based strategies that encourage functional independence and community participation.

Jeanne Zanca, PhD, MPT, senior research scientist received funding of $35,000 to support her project titled, “Neurofeedback to Assist Self-Regulation of Neuropathic Pain Post-Spinal Cord Injury.” While medications are often the primary method of treatment, they are inadequate for controlling neuropathic pain and the negative impact it has on quality of life. Dr. Zanca’s study seeks to identify novel non-pharmacologic strategies for managing pain. The study will use neuroimaging to test whether neurofeedback (a way of providing a person with information about his/her brain activity during a thinking task) can help people with SCI learn to control activity in brain areas related to pain, and learn to reduce the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain they experience.

Funding: Craig H. Neilsen Foundation


About the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is the largest private funder of spinal cord injury research, rehabilitation, clinical training, and programmatic support in the United States and Canada, and draws ongoing inspiration from its founder. The Foundation partners with scientific, charitable and educational organizations conducting spinal cord injury research, training in spinal cord medicine, and supports grassroots organizations providing services to assist individuals affected by spinal cord injury. The Foundation is dedicated to a future where individuals with spinal cord injuries live full and productive lives as active participants in their communities.

For more information about the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, visit

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 employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

For more information on Kessler Foundation’s research, visit

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