Physical Therapy Professors Present Research at Harvard Medical School

Published on October 23, 2018

Margie RoosProfessors Greg Thielman, PT, EdD, and Margie Roos, DPT, PhD presented at the Movement and Cognition international conference this summer at Harvard Medical School.

Drs. Thielman and Roos discussed their research into the effects of cognitive re-training by adding cognitive motor interference throughout a functional circuit training program.

“As approximately 795,000 Americans experience a new or recurrent stroke each year with up to 70 percent of these individuals experiencing cognitive impairment, up to 60 percent experiencing depression and most all being less active than healthy older adults, many factors must be addressed to promote a more active lifestyle,” said Dr. Thielman. “Research has begun to investigate the influence of cognitive function on activity and participation in this patient population, but there is a paucity of research on the influence of cognitive retraining on cognitive and functional outcomes. The focus on many rehabilitation programs are on improving motor function, functional mobility, and participation in the community. However, the contribution of cognitive retraining during rehabilitation to optimal functional outcomes has not yet been well defined.”

Greg ThielmanWork in Dr. Thielman and Roos’ lab studies the effects of cognitive re-training by adding cognitive motor interference throughout a functional circuit training program. This program will mimic every day activities such as walking, balance tasks, upper and lower extremity exercises, stair climbing with concurrent cognitive tasks. They also reviewed some of the methodology of this concept and presented pilot data for this new work. 

Another area gaining more attention in neuropsychology research is the idea of cognitive reserve (CR), in which individuals supposedly differ in their abilities to cope with degenerative brain pathologies. An individual’s level of CR is thought to be influenced by biology and the environment – or intelligence, education, and occupation. This can relate to a CVA, because the same magnitude stroke can cause clinically significant impairments in one patient, while conversely producing few clinical symptoms in another patient. 

Cognitive reserve has therefore been postulated as this factor that may bridge the gap between the disconnect between the “degree of brain damage and its outcome.” Present work in our lab has demonstrated that side of brain lesion may influence cognitive performance on certain cognitive assessments post stroke, but to what extent does cognitive reserve effect motor function is unknown. Drs. Thielman and Roos presented this concept as well as some related pilot data.

Categories:  ResearchPresentationPhysical TherapyDepartment of Physical TherapyFaculty