My research interests include all aspects of brain function although I generally look at issues that involve brain dysfunction. Traumatic brain injury including mild tbi (concussion) fascinate me. My research career has centered on the treatment of individuals living with the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI). This has included research on family coping strategies and rehabilitation outcomes. One of my current research interests is focused on mild TBI. I am the director of research for the University concussion research center. We have been evaluating the impact of concussion on the physiology of the patient and looking for treatments that help to ameliorate the long-term effects. We evaluated the use of the Balke treadmill test to evaluate readiness to return to play. We found this procedure to be reliable and safe and extremely useful in differential diagnosis of post concussion syndrome. We also completed a fMRI pilot study of individuals with PCS and found that as patients improved in their symptoms and physiologic response to treatment, their brains were more efficient metabolically. They used less energy to accomplish the same task and the foci of activity were more consistent with the demands of the task. We also found that subjects that followed an exercise regime recovered quicker and had brain function more closely aligned with the normal controls.
We have completed two RCTs evaluating the effectiveness heart rate limited exercise as a treatment for concussion in adolescents. Both studies produced similar results. Those prescribed aerobic exercise recovered faster (40% fewer days to recovery) and had less probability of delayed recovery. We have just completed an RO1 to examine changes in the autonomic nervous system that accompany recovery. We are also looking at changes cerebral blood flow that correspond to injury and recovery. We just started a new study that examines selected micro-RNA as potential bio-markers of concussive injury and recovery. We also have just received a substantial award from the Department of Defence to test our exercise based protocol for the treatment of concussed service members. It is very gratifying to think we might be able improve the outcomes for members of military who we are indebted to for their service.