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Members in the Spotlight


Meet Michelle Ploughman, BDcPT, MSc, PhD


Michelle PloughmanMichelle Ploughman BSc.PT, MSc., PhD is Canada Research Chair (Tier II) Rehabilitation, Neuroplasticity and Brain Recovery and Associate Professor, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland.  Dr. Ploughman was awarded a research grant for a project focused on whether or not exercise can help heal the brain and protect it from degeneration.  Dr. Ploughman and her colleagues think that participation in aerobic exercise can alter the immune system and shift the balance from a state of inflammation towards one that fosters brain repair.  The field of exercise epigenomics is new and could have important implications for multiple sclerosis (MS), as well as other diseases that involve neurodegeneration.  Dr. Ploughman says her latest project involves investigating potential links between aerobic fitness and physical activity and the balance of inflammation and brain repair on the preservation of brain function, as well as sensorimotor and cognitive deficits in people with mild MS.  “We intend to uncover what factors contribute to disease progression and neurodegeneration,” says Dr. Ploughman, a Memorial alumna. “This funding recognizes the importance of understanding how lifestyle, particularly exercise, influences the immune system and protects the brain from neurodegeneration.”


Meet Elena Philippou, PhD, RD, FHEA


Dr Elena Philippou is an Associate Professor in Nutrition-Dietetics at the University of Nicosia and a Visiting Lecturer in Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London, UK. Dr Philippou is mainly interested in studying how diet can prevent degenerative disease, and more specifically, the effects of the Mediterranean diet and carbohydrate manipulation on cognitive function, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiometabolic factors aiming to identify dietary factors that can prevent disease and/or improve outcomes.  Her research is published in International peer-reviewed scientific journals. She has a number of National and International collaborations including: the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics for the validation of a food frequency questionnaire to evaluate the diet of Cypriot adults,  the University College London’s Medical Research Council to investigate dietary factors and cognitive function in the 1946 birth cohort and the Centre for Applied Neuroscience at the University of Cyprus to investigate metabolic factors and cognition. Find her research here.

Dr Philippou is a member of the ACRM Neurodegenerative Diseases Networking Group and also practices as a clinical dietitian advising adults and children on diet-related issues. 

Dr Philippou has recently published an editorial in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on tilted: ‘Dietary Patterns and Cognition: food for thought or … still more thought necessary?’ arguing on the importance of taking into account previous, preferably childhood, cognitive function in addition to educational attainment as potential confounders when assessing diet and cognitive function, aiming to limit residual confounding. Read the editorial here.

Dr. Sandra Kletzel Receives two VA Awards


Sandra Kletzel imageCongratulations to NDNG scholar and rehabilitation scientist Dr. Sandra Kletzel for receiving a prestigious 5 year VA ORD RR&D Career Development Award Level 2 to examine therapeutic effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in Veterans with Parkinson’s disease (PD). The central hypothesis is that rTMS will safely improve cognitive function in PD-MCI with concomitant modulation of neural networks that support cognition.  

Congratulations, also to Dr. Kletzel, on receiving a concurrent VA ORD RR&D, SPiRE Award (similar to an NIH R21), to examine feasibility of an at-home cognitive rehabilitation program that incorporates both prospective implementation intentions strategies (PRIIS) and an existing web-based executive function computerized cognitive training (CCT) software for Veterans with Parkinson’s disease and to collect pilot data to determine the impact of this program on cognition and everyday function. The central hypothesis is that CCT+PRIIS, compared to CCT alone and an active control group, will lead to greater improvements in cognitive performance and daily function.

Dr. Kletzel is a health scientist researcher and post-doctoral fellow at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital Research and Rehabilitation Department in Hines, Illinois, USA.


NDNG Congratulates Leaders of Two NIH K01 Grant Awards


Hannes DevosHannes Devos, PT, PhD, was recently granted a mentored research scientist award (K01) from the National Institute of Aging to study neurophysiological changes in pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease. The results of this study will hopefully lead to early detection of individuals at risk of Alzheimer’s disease. These individuals could benefit from early, targeted prehabilitation interventions to prolong independence and quality of life. His primary mentor on this award is Dr. Jeffrey Burns, Professor and Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

As a member of ACRM, Dr. Devos serves as Membership Officer on the NDNG Executive Committee and at the University of Kansas Medical Center, he is an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science. He is Co-Director of the Laboratory for Advanced Rehabilitation Research in Simulation (LARRS), a lab that uses neurophysiological instruments and virtual reality to study rehabilitation outcomes in neurological conditions.

Brian Downer, PhD imageBrian Downer, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Division of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch and member of the Neurodegenerative Disease Networking Group of ACRM received a K01 mentored research scientist award from the National Institute on Aging. The award is titled Improvement in Patients’ Cognition and Relationship with SNF Quality Measures.

Dr. Downer will receive training on the treatment and rehabilitation of older adults in skilled nursing settings, healthcare policies that impact the delivery of post-acute care, and methodologies for health services research. He will also conduct research to identify patient- and facility-level factors that are associated with changes in SNF residents’ cognitive functioning and determine if changes in cognitive functioning are related to existing quality measures of skilled nursing care.

Member Selected as Neuromuscular Plasticity Symposium Scholar


Melike KahyaCongratulations to ACRM member, Melike Kahya, PT, MS, a PhD candidate in rehabilitation science at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She was selected as a University of Florida Neuromuscular Plasticity Symposium scholar. With this award, Melike Kahya was invited to present her research at the 2019 Neuromuscular Plasticity Symposium in Gainesville, Florida on 15 March. She will present, “Pupillary Response to Dual-tasking in Parkinson’s Disease: Implications for Falls”.

The University of Florida has an NIH T32 training grant focused on neuromuscular plasticity and rehabilitation. The Interdisciplinary Training Program in Rehabilitation and Neuromuscular Plasticity (NMPT) is funded by NCMRR to help build a critical mass of well-trained scientists prepared to conduct innovative rehabilitation research.

The NMPT symposium organizers solicit nominations from PhD programs nation-wide and select two scholars each year to award a $500 honorarium.

Michele York Receives Women of Excellence Award


Michele York image

Congratulations to Dr. Michele York who was honored by the Baylor College of Medicine during Women’s History Month as the recipient of the Women of Excellence Award.




PCORI Approves $5.7 Million Study


Deborah Backus imageCongratulations to Dr. Deborah Backus who received a $5.7 million PCORI grant. PCORI approved a $5.7 million study based at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta that will evaluate the effectiveness of different types of exercise programs for people with multiple sclerosis. Decreased mobility is a common symptom of the disease, and it can lead to less physical activity. This project will compare exercise programs provided at gyms or rehabilitation facilities with a telerehabilitation program available to patients at home. Principal Investigators are Deborah A. Backus, PhD, PT and Robert Motl, PhD, MS.


Parkinson Home Exercises Book Published


Erwin van Wegen image

Dr. Erwin van Wegen has published a Parkinson Home Exercises Book available on Amazon. Dr. van Wegen is active on the Dutch Society for Neurorehabilitation and serves as a member of the Organizing Committee of the 22-24 May 2019 Congres on Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, MECC Maastricht, Netherlands.