MU’s Department of Occupational Therapy Receives Two Grants from National Institute of Health

Sept. 25, 2019



MU’s Department of Occupational Therapy has been awarded two research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which are the first from that agency in its department history.

The first project is titled, Development and Acceptability of an Ambient In-Home Activity Assessment Tool for Stroke. It will use depth sensors and Daily Activity Recognition and Assessment System (DARAS) to monitor daily activities of adults who have had a stroke to try to detect problems early and intervene to prevent future strokes. The sensors will be used in the homes of 20 individuals, monitoring basic activities, such as sweeping or opening a cabinet door.

“Our work is the first to do this with the stroke population in the everyday home environment,” explains Dr. Rachel Proffitt, Assistant Professor in Occupational Therapy and project lead, “If successful, we will add a novel and important assessment tool to occupational therapy practice. OTs would be able to tell what their clients do in their own home environments and have a detailed and accurate assessment of performance of those activities.”

Another benefit of this project is interdisciplinary collaboration between occupational therapy and the Department of Engineering. Dr. Proffitt explains, “…we have involved undergraduate and graduate students from both disciplines throughout the project and will continue to do so with this funding. Dr. (Marjorie) Skubic and I have a very similar approach to problem-solving and science and have successfully learned each other’s discipline-specific ‘language’ over the past 3 ½ years. Our collaboration is also fairly unique in occupational therapy research.”

The second project is titled Efficacy of Metacognitive-Strategy Training to Improve Activity Performance and Reduce Motor Impairment in Sub-Acute Stroke, led by Dr. Timothy J. Wolf, Chair, and Associate Professor in Occupational Therapy. For treatment of individuals after a stroke, it will focus on activity engagement, rather than attempting to reduce motor impairment, as most treatments do. The study will look at whether re-engaging in daily tasks will aid recovery more effectively than fixing the impairments occurring after a stroke.

According to Dr. Wolf, “This work has been over 10 years in the making and we completed multiple pilot studies to identify the potential effects of the intervention as well as refine the intervention prior to this grant.”

This project is significant in adding to the department’s scholarly presence with these federal grants. “It also will have a significant impact for us moving forward in terms of our presence/recognition in our profession and our ability to recruit PhD students, post-docs, and faculty,” says Dr. Wolf.

Read more about the new Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program at MU.