Fedora BineyFedora Biney, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, received a diversity supplement grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) supporting ongoing research on the topic “Transferring Speed of Processing Gains to Everyday Cognitive Tasks after Stroke”.

These federal funds are provided under the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s research supplement program to promote diversity in health-related research and support emerging researchers with mentor-directed opportunities that foster and expand their research capabilities, knowledge, and skills in diverse aging research areas.

Dr. Biney conducts her research with the Constraint-Induced (CI) Therapy Research Group and centers around CI Therapy, a well-known therapeutic approach to rehabilitation after stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). CI Therapy consists of a family of treatments that teach the brain to “rewire” itself following an injury to the brain. CI therapy is based on research by Edward Taub, Ph.D., UAB Professor in the Department of Psychology, which shows patients can “learn” to improve movement of the weaker parts of their bodies and their speech. CI Therapy has been instrumental in updating previously held beliefs in rehabilitation regarding limits of brain recovery and neuroplasticity. It has impacted even the terminology used by rehabilitation professionals as the well-known term ‘learned non-use’ was coined as part of Dr. Taub’s work on somatosensory deafferentation in primates.

CI Therapy utilizes a collection of behavioral techniques including intensive training, shaping, and a transfer package that is designed to generalize laboratory gains in function to real-world functioning. Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT) has been successful in improving upper and lower extremity motor functioning following stroke, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological conditions. Constraint-Induced Aphasia Therapy (CIAT) has been used to improve communication in individuals with aphasia following stroke.

At this time, the CI Therapy Research Group is actively recruiting participants for an NIA-funded project looking at adults that are more than one year post-stroke with mild-to-moderate cognitive difficulties who are experiencing difficulties with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). The intervention will compare CICT to an equal dose of state-of-the-art brain fitness training. Given the past success of previous applications of CI Therapy, CICT is expected to foster improvements in IADL performance. In addition, MRI data is being collected to evaluate changes in brain structure and function. The CI Therapy Research Group is also running a pilot, randomized control trial of CICT in adults with long COVID experiencing brain fog and cognitive difficulties. This research aims to improve functional independence and brain fog symptoms.

Dr. Biney is proud to be a part of this life-changing research. She added, “Given that cognitive deficits often hinder an individual’s ability to fulfill vocational, social, and family roles, it is exciting to be at the forefront of an intervention aimed at improving functional independence.”