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IU School of Medicine, Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana selected for national brain injury research network


The program, started in 1988 by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, has created the longest and largest database of long-term information on individuals with moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury. Sixteen centers around the country have attained TBI Model System site status.

“This award recognizes that the Indiana University School of Medicine and Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana have an excellent continuum of care, a solid research plan and world-renowned clinical researchers. It ensures that this partnership can develop a stronger understanding and new treatment methods for people dealing with traumatic brain injuries, while helping current patients by sharing that information with clinicians and researchers worldwide,” said Flora Hammond, M.D., chief of medical affairs at Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana and Covalt Professor and chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at IU School of Medicine.

Dr. Hammond will be the director of the new TBI Model System and James F. Malec, Ph.D., professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at IU and research director of Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana, will be co-director.

Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana is an acute care rehabilitation hospital for inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. RHI specializes in brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke and comprehensive medical rehabilitation for injuries or illnesses resulting in loss of function. RHI is a community collaboration between Indiana University Health and St. Vincent Health.

“As the sole traumatic brain injury model system site in the state of Indiana, this award further validates best practice in rehabilitation care. It is comforting for RHI patients, acute care hospital physicians and the Indianapolis community to know that patients with brain injuries, those sustaining strokes, spinal cord injuries, multiple trauma and other injuries or illnesses have available to them outstanding rehabilitation professionals at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana and Indiana University School of Medicine,” said Daniel B. Woloszyn, Ph.D., chief executive officer and clinical neuropsychologist at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana.

Along with sustaining and contributing to the longitudinal database, centers that are named to the TBI Model Systems program participate in local and collaborative research projects, focusing on the federal agency’s areas of emphasis including employment, health and function, independent living and community integration. The Indianapolis proposal includes the Brain Research in Aggression and Irritability Network, or BRAIN, which develops and studies treatment of irritability and aggression caused by brain injuries.

“Irritability and aggression are common problems for individuals with traumatic brain injury and can have a corrosive effect on their interactions with people and their ability to stay employed,” Dr. Hammond said.

“Yet, we really don’t have quality measures of their impact. There are a few good studies of treatments, but the standards for managing these problems are inadequate,” she said.

The BRAIN project will include two primary studies that were developed with input from the traumatic brain injury community.

  • A study of the effectiveness of buspirone in treating post-TBI irritability and aggression. Buspirone, sold under the brand names Buspar and Vanspar, is primarily prescribed to treat anxiety disorders or short-term symptoms of anxiety.
  • Preliminary development of a standardized measure to assess the impact of aggression and irritability. Measuring impact is a new yet complementary approach to existing measures of the expression of irritability and aggression.

In addition to its research initiative, BRAIN is a comprehensive model service delivery system serving individuals with traumatic brain injury. The system includes prevention and emergency medical services, intensive and acute care, comprehensive medical rehabilitation, long-term follow-up, community reintegration and vocational rehabilitation. The system serves more than 70,000 Indiana residents and is expected to enroll more than 70 participants annually into the TBI Model System national database.