Improving the lives of the disabled

Montclair State’s Department of Psychology and the Kessler Foundation of West Orange are collaborating on a yearlong program that provides students with unique, hands-on research internship opportunities helping people with cognitive brain disorders.

Psychology Professor Ruth Propper, director of Montclair State’s Cerebral Lateralization Laboratory, established the program last fall with the Kessler Foundation, a public charity dedicated to changing the lives people with physical and cognitive disabilities.

“Psychology Professor Peter Vietze, through his contacts there, invited me to visit Kessler with him as he felt that my work and theirs might lead to natural collaborative opportunities,” recalls Propper, whose cognitive research has also been used by the United States Army and the Department of Defense to help keep soldiers safe through memory enhancement techniques.

The collaboration with the Kessler Foundation allows for seven Montclair State graduate students to receive course credit as interns while working on diverse projects aimed at improving the lives of people disabled by strokes, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries and other chronic conditions. The students work with Kessler Foundation researchers to explore new means of lessening the effects of neurological damage on cognition and emotion.

Photo of interns Alexa Decker and Neil Patel
Interns Alexa Decker and Neil Patel

The interns work on projects involving wearable battery-powered robotic exoskeletons used to help stroke victims regain mobility and are exploring the use of a low-cost, customized virtual-reality rehabilitation tool to help improve the balance of traumatic brain injury patients.

The Kessler Foundation is equipped with a research imaging center, and Montclair State interns are involved with neuroimaging projects — using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other techniques — aimed at improving the mobility and cognition of the disabled.