Acquired Brain Injury Research

ABI Research Focus

The Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Research Program at Shepherd Center aims to advance the understanding of brain injury to better treat ABI patients, improve their health and functioning, community participation, and vocational opportunities. Our research encompasses a broad range of disciplines and methodologies, and we collaborate with clinicians and professionals in physiatry, allied health, neuropsychology, social science, and the humanities. Our projects explore and investigate brain function, rehabilitation treatment and services, and life after brain injury that may be categorized as:

  1. Investigations of brain functioning and processes. Advancing the understanding of neurological processes to develop effective treatments.
  2. Descriptive studies identifying predictors of outcomes. By working with patients and families, we assess factors that may be determinative of positive outcomes. Our findings help us develop interventions and define rehabilitation goals that may improve patient outcomes.
  3. Interventions in rehabilitation practice. Through our research studies, we can better determine which interventions improve patient outcomes and then translate our findings into clinical practice.

    Current Research Studies

    Validation of a Neuropsychological Model of Disorders of the Self

    • This study aims to document the relationships that exist among right hemisphere neuropsychological functions, “disorders of the self,” and character traits to determine effective treatments.

    A Longitudinal fMRI Study of Theistic Relational Processing in Individuals with Neurologic Dysfunction

    • This study is being conducted to determine how different brain regions and processes are associated with how we experience "relationships," whether with other humans or our conceptualization of the divine.

    Evaluating the Effectiveness of Least Restrictive Restraint Training Program for Individuals with ABI

    • Many individuals with moderate to severe acquired brain injury (ABI) present continued safety risks (e.g., falls, pulling out medical tubes) when discharged. The ABI team has developed a program to train caregivers on the effective use of restraints to ensure patient safety and health, as well as reduce caregiver burden and stress.

    Foundation to Advance Brain Rehabilitation (FABR)

    • Shepherd Center has collaborated with five other brain injury rehabilitation organizations to aggregate patient outcome data on the impact of brain injury rehabilitation following acute care.

    Documenting the General Effectiveness of Chaplaincy Services for Individuals with Chronic Disabilities

    • Chaplaincy services have been shown to help patients and their families address spiritual needs. This study aims to discover more about the general impact on patient health, functioning, financial costs, and services.

    Documenting the General Effectiveness of Recreational Therapy Services for Individuals with Acquired Brain Injury

    • Recreational therapy services (e.g., art, music, and animal therapy) help patients and their families improve their health, functioning, and community participation. This study aims to document the benefits for inpatients with acquired brain injury (ABI).

    Social Determinants of Recovery, Health, and Community Participation in Underserved Asian American Rehabilitation Populations

    • The study aims to assess and characterize cultural values, beliefs, and subjective experiences which underlie rehabilitation care-related decision-making and to relate these factors to the outcome indicators across different Asian American subgroups.

    Our ABI Research Team

    • Brick Johnstone, Ph.D. – Principal Investigator
    • Andrew Dennison, M.D. – Medical Director
    • Nicole Thompson, MPH – Project Administrator
    • Dalton Hill – Data Collector
    • Zac Bradley, MS – Vocational Specialist
    • Kelle Froberg, MS – Vocational Specialist
    • Raeda Anderson, Ph.D. – Researcher Scientist/Statistician