Dr. Gitendra Uswatte

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Professor, Psychology

Other information

Other information:
Gitendra UswatteContact Information:

Email: guswatte@uab.edu
Office Phone: (205) 975 5089
Fax: (205) 975 6140
Education:

A.B., 1991, Princeton University, Economics
M.A., 1998, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Clinical (Medical) Psychology
Ph.D., 2001, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Clinical (Medical) Psychology

Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests:

Dr. Uswatte has two main areas of research. The first is the application of behavioral principles to the rehabilitation of movement after neurological injury. The second is the study of human psychological strengths such as hope, kindness, and gratitude.

His main line of research involves the development of real-world measures of motor behavior. The consensus in physical rehabilitation is that functional activity in the community is the most important treatment outcome. Furthermore, data suggest that there is often dissociation between motor performance in the laboratory and behavior at home. Dr. Uswatte has developed a new, objective measure of arm movement in real-world environments using portable, wireless accelerometers that measure movement in real time. The instrument was adopted by a group of leading investigators in neurorehabilitation as an outcome measure in the first large multi-site clinical trial of an upper-extremity rehabilitation treatment. The aim of his current research is to develop a wireless network of sensors attached to frequently manipulated objects in a patient’s home to capture a rich, objective picture of real-world arm use (as opposed to movement). The development of such measures will enable clinical researchers to best discriminate those interventions that make the greatest practical impact on the daily lives of persons with neurological injuries.

Dr. Uswatte also works in close collaboration with Dr. Edward Taub, University Professor in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Taub’s laboratory has developed and evaluated a new family of rehabilitation techniques, called Constraint-Induced Movement therapy or CI therapy, over the last 20 years. This behavioral therapy is based on behavioral neuroscience research conducted with monkeys. It was described in a recent review article as one of the few treatments in rehabilitation for which there was empirical evidence of efficacy. Current research projects include (a) examining what components of the treatment are responsible for the robust changes CI therapy produces in stroke-affected arm function and brain physiology and anatomy, (b) developing methods for automating training, and (c) adapting this treatment approach to stroke survivors who have been too low functioning to be included in CI therapy protocols to date, i.e., those with only a flicker of active movement remaining in their more-impaired hand.

Dr. Uswatte’s second area of research is the study of human psychological strengths such as hope, kindness, and gratitude. Psychology, in the last half-century, has developed a rich body of knowledge about human frailties such as depression, anxiety, and other maladaptive mental states. Although humanistic and other psychologists have addressed human strengths, such as spirituality and a drive for self-actualization, “positive” aspects of human psychology have not, until relatively recently, been studied using empirical methods. Dr. Uswatte’s current work in this area aims to explore the role of psychological strengths such as kindness, gratitude, and curiosity in enhancing the relationships between persons with disabling injuries and their partners, the mental and physical health of such couples, and the retention of gains made in rehabilitation by the partner with the disability.

Dr. Uswatte's research has been funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, National Institutes of Health, James S. McDonnell Foundation, American Heart Association, and Positive Psychology Network. He received the Mitchell Rosenthal Early Career Research Award from the Division of Rehabilitation Psychology of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2008 and was elected President of that division in 2013. He was made an APA Fellow in 2011.

Representative Publications:

Wolf, S. L., Winstein, C. J., Miller, J. P., Taub, E., Uswatte, G., Morris, D., Giuliani, C., Light, K. E., & Nichols-Larsen, D. (2006). Effect of Constraint-Induced Movement therapy on upper extremity function 3-9 months after stroke: the EXCITE randomized clinical trial. JAMA, 296, 2095-2104.

Dunn, D. S., Uswatte, G., & Elliott, T. R. (2009). Happiness, resilience and positive growth following disability:  issues for understanding, research, and therapeutic intervention. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (2nd ed., pp. 651-654). New York: Oxford University Press.

Uswatte, G., & Taub, E. (2010). You can teach an old dog new tricks: harnessing neuroplasticity after brain injury in older adults. In P. S. Fry & C. L. M. Keyes (Eds.), New Frontiers in Resilient Aging (pp. 104-129). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Uswatte, G. (2013). Promoting physical activity: fertile ground for rehabilitation psychology. Rehabilitation Psychology, 58, 87-88.

Sokal, B., Uswatte, G., Barman, J., Brewer, M., Byrom E., Latten, J., Joseph, J., Serafim, C., Ghaffari, T., & Sarkar, N. (in press). A network of movement and proximity sensors for monitoring upper-extremity motor activity after stroke: proof of principle. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Teaching Interests: 

Dr. Uswatte’s teaching interests include research methods, statistics, the psychology of strengths and virtues (positive psychology), and the psychology of social inequality.

Clinical Specialization:

Dr. Uswatte’s area of clinical specialization is rehabilitation psychology.