Brain Injury Program Receives Two Federal Grants for Innovative Research - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Published on August 19, 2008

RIC Brain Injury Program Awarded Two Federal Grants to Lead Innovative Research

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), the #1 rehabilitation hospital in the country[1], today announced two significant research grants awarded to the Brain Injury Medicine and Rehabilitation Program to fuel cutting-edge research awarded by the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

RIC’s program has been designated a Model System of Care through a NIDRR grant, one of 16 facilities in the United States to which this distinction is awarded. This program, named the Midwest Regional Traumatic Brain Injury Model System, is dedicated to exploring treatments that will enhance the abilities of patients through technologies and advanced care models.

The U.S. Department of Defense also awarded RIC a grant to advance discovery in the treatment of insomnia in brain injury patients, which is estimated to affect as many as three out of four people with brain injury.

"RIC's world-renowned model for brain injury care is underscored by these two significant federal grants that help us to fuel innovative research and deliver the most advanced care to our patients," said Joanne C. Smith, MD, president and CEO of RIC. “The investments from the Department of Defense and the Department of Education foster cutting-edge discoveries and position RIC to advance patient recovery with the best outcomes.” 

NIDRR “Model Systems” Grant

The NIDRR designation acknowledges RIC’s excellence as a provider of rehabilitation care for patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and as a research and educational resource for patients and families. This grant will support innovative approaches to improving cognition, function and community living for people with TBI including:

Examination of the benefits of a virtual-reality robotics program to improve attention and concentration in TBI patients

  • Development and assessment of an acupuncture program to improve the sleeping patterns, cognitive function and mood of inpatient TBI patients
  • Participation in a collaborative study, along with four other Model System sites, assessing sexual function after TBI and the role patient and family education may play in this aspect of recovery from the effects of injury

“RIC’s selection as a Model System Care Center will position the brain injury program to work in collaboration with acute care hospitals and community organizations to provide innovative traumatic brain injury treatment and rehabilitation programs,” said Dr. Felise Zollman , medical director of RIC’s Brain Injury Medicine and Rehabilitation Program and one of the grant’s project managers. “This designation solidifies RIC’s commitment to providing quality care to brain injured patients and positions our program to continue growing and pursuing new discoveries destined to improve the lives of those who have suffered brain injuries and their families.”

Approximately 230,000 hospitalizations occur each year as a result of TBI, with nearly two percent of the American population living with a TBI-related disability.  RIC plans to utilize the Model System as an opportunity to further educational programming about TBI and related injury for patients, families, professionals who care for patients and the public.

Through this designation, RIC will strengthen it’s collaborations with some of the region’s top medical centers to optimize and advance acute brain injury care, rehabilitation care and community reintegration. Partners in this program include Northwestern Memorial Hospital; Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; Northwestern University, RML Specialty Hospital; and the Brain Injury Association of Illinois.

DOD Grant

RIC’s Brain Injury Medicine and Rehabilitation program was awarded a grant to support an 18- month trial examining the effectiveness of acupuncture to treat insomnia for outpatients with brain injury. 

“We know that insomnia is a prevalent problem for people with brain injury,” said Zollman. “Through this discovery process, we hope to prove that acupuncture may be as effective as pharmaceutical sleeping aides without affecting a patient’s mood and cognition level, which will help patients sustain alertness and improve cognitive function and overall outcomes.”

RIC’s Brain Injury Medicine and Rehabilitation Program is dedicated to restoring physical, cognitive, communicative, psychosocial and vocational skills of patients with brain injury.

RIC cares for the most complex cases and has specialty programs such as the AMiCouS program, the first-of-its-kind program in the nation designed specifically to assess brain injured patients in the minimally conscious state. The program aims to identify the best next steps early on and assist in making a smooth transition to the next phase of care, whether that is at home with loved ones or in a skilled care setting.

About The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) is making a difference in the world for people with disabilities.  RIC provides world-class care to patients from around the globe for a range of conditions from acute brain and spinal cord injury to chronic arthritis, pain and sports injuries.  RIC, founded in 1954, has been designated the “#1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America” by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1991 and attributes its leading standard of care in part to its innovative research and discovery, particularly in the areas of bionic medicine, robotics, neural regeneration, pain care and better outcomes. RIC operates its 165-bed flagship hospital in downtown Chicago , as well as a network of 30 sites of care located throughout the city and surrounding suburbs that provide additional inpatient care, day rehabilitation and outpatient services. RIC also maintains strategic alliances with leading healthcare providers throughout the state of Illinois and Indiana.


[1] U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIC the “#1 Rehabilitation Hospital ” every year since 1991.