American Psychological Foundation

APF grantee will study athletes’ brain injuries

Sports leagues try to ensure that athletes who have suffered concussions return to play only when they have fully recovered from their injury. But team physicians’ inability to consistently determine readiness accurately may put some back in the game too soon. Amanda Rabinowitz of Pennsylvania State University, will use her APF Benton Meier Neuropsychology Scholarship to improve the assessment of athletes who have experienced concussions so that they do not suffer from the serious, often permanent impairment that can result from repetitive brain injuries.

Teams gauge readiness by comparing an athlete’s initial, non-concussive brain tests to tests conducted after an injury. However, the baseline tests may not provide an accurate portrayal of the athlete’s cognition because many athletes are less motivated to perform well in baseline testing. In contrast, after an injury most athletes want to do well on the tests so they can return to play — creating a discrepancy between the accuracy of the tests.

To address this problem, Rabinowitz plans to study in-the-moment fluctuations in the emotional, cognitive and physical state of college athletes pre-injury to better gauge the athletes’ motivation during baseline testing so that comparisons to post-concussion tests are more accurate.

Grantee explores link between Parkinson’s and depression

Depression is one of the most common non-motor side effects of Parkinson’s disease. Many researchers originally believed it was primarily the result of a decreased quality of life. New studies, however, find that depression may be a result of the neurodegenerative process of Parkinson’s. Preliminary evidence suggests there are distinct depression profiles in Parkinson’s disease.

To explore that theory, Laura Zahodne, of the University of Florida, will use her APF Benton Meier Neuropsychology Scholarship to examine the prominence of three Parkinson’s depression components: apathy, anhedonia (the inability to experience joy) and negative affect.

Zahodne’s research will help develop more effective treatments for Parkinson’s disease depression, including both psychotherapeutic and pharmacologic interventions.

— J. Clark

Upcoming APF funding deadlines

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

For more information regarding APF’s grants and scholarships, contact Kim Palmer Rowsome, program officer, at (202) 336-5622.