Technology platforms to support those with TBI and their caregivers subject of new ONF/REPAR research commitment

Second phase of research to better understand and meet long-term needs  

A team of researchers from Ontario and Quebec has had their work into the long-term health effects on those aging with traumatic brain injury (TBI) funded for a further two-year period. This research will help increase the understanding of how technology may help these individuals and their caregivers. This team builds on the outcomes from the first phase of research that increased knowledge of the health needs for those who are living with TBI and are aging.

The research is jointly supported by a partnership between the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation (ONF) and the Quebec Rehabilitation Research Network/Réseau Provincial de Recherche en Adaptation-Réadaptation (REPAR)

Declines in function for people with TBI can extend beyond the acute period of recovery. This challenges the once‐held assumption that TBI was an acute episode characterized by a period of recovery, and a stable functional trajectory thereafter. Findings from other recent research into this area included evidence to indicate those who experienced a TBI earlier in life may show more than expected decline in functions of key sections of the brain.

Caregivers may experience a heavy burden of care over several years – even decades – depending upon the severity of impairments or challenges experienced by a loved one with TBI. Aging adds another level of complexity for everyone.

Phase One research pointed to technology as a potential solution to better support those with TBI and their caregivers. The newly-funded research will test this hypothesis and identify specific technology such as mobile applications, telehealth and others using several methods that will engage a variety of stakeholders.

“Our overarching goal over the next two years is to develop, evaluate, and implement social and technological interventions that will support family caregivers of individuals with TBI, in providing long‐term care to individuals with TBI in the home and community, and maintaining their own wellbeing as they, too, are aging,” according to the approved grant proposal.

“This was a thorough and well thought-out application,” says Corinne Kagan, Senior Director, Acquired Brain Injury at ONF. “This work is impressive because it will link quality of life to use of technology in a practical and meaningful way. ˮ Technology could include various platforms that address care and diagnostics as well deficits in comprehension, mobility and communication. Social interventions could include care networks and community and in-home support systems.

The partnership between ONF and REPAR was established in 2007 as an initiative to help leading neurotrauma researchers collaborate across Ontario and Quebec to attract funding, build research capacity and increase the impact of their work. More than 100 researchers have been engaged in joint projects that to-date have been able to leverage almost $20-million in research funding.

The Spinal Cord Injury team and their work will be featured in the next issue of NeuroMatters.