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The University of Pittsburgh has leading occupational therapy researchers looking for answers to guide occupational therapy practice. To achieve our goal to explore and test occupational therapy interventions, we have partnered with experts in many diverse fields: Bioengineering, Psychiatry, Cardiology, and Gerontology to name a few. Our nationally recognized research laboratories have received Federal, Foundation, and University funding. 

If you are interested in learning more about research in occupational therapy, please contact us at otpitt@shrs.pitt.edu.

Here is a brief overview of our laboratories:

Hand Motion Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Nancy A. Baker, ScD, MPH, OTR/L, FAOTA, Associate Professor 
Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Pittsburgh 

Laboratory Description: The mission of the Hand Motion Laboratory is to examine the effects  of musculoskeletal impairment on occupation, particularly work.  The research program of the Hand Motion Laboratory reflects a synthesis of preventing work-related injuries (ergonomics),  addressing limitations due to musculoskeletal impairments (e.g. arthritis, pain) and determining conservative treatments for work-related hand injuries (carpal tunnel syndrome).  

Laboratory Projects:

Evaluating the effectiveness of computer workstations

Developing methods to improve patient care in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Predicting and treating flares in people with arthritis

Clinical treatment of chronic pain disorders

Occupational Therapy Cognitive Performance Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Elizabeth R. Skidmore, PhD, OTR/L, Professor 
Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Pittsburgh 
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Pittsburgh 
Rehabilitation Institute, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center 

Laboratory Description: The Cognitive Performance Laboratory conducts clinical studies examining the associations among cognitive and affective impairments and activities of daily living disability and interventions designed to ameliorate these influences, focusing in two areas. The primary line of research focuses on interventions designed to improve rehabilitation outcomes for individuals with cognitive impairments and mood disorders after acquired brain injury (stroke, traumatic brain injury). The secondary line of research focuses on activities of daily living disability among community-dwelling older adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment and mood disorders.

Laboratory Projects:

Optimizing Post-Acute Care Individuals Who Sustain Stroke
Strategy Training for Cognitive Disability in Acute Stroke Rehabilitation
Strategy Training and Therapeutic Exercise for Cognitive Impairment After Cardiac Arrest
Measuring Disability Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults At-Risk for Cognitive Declines and Mood Disorders

Occupational Therapy Productive Aging Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Pamela Toto, PhD, OTR/L, BCG, FAOTA, Associate Professor 
Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Pittsburgh 

Laboratory Description: The Productive Aging Laboratory conducts studies examining the implementation and effectiveness of evidence-based programs to reduce disability and promote aging-in-place for older adults. Primary research interests focus on use of behavioral strategies (e.g., goal attainment scaling, self-efficacy enhancing activities) in geriatric prevention programs and on client-centered interventions to reduce frailty and frailty-related disability in older adults. Secondary research interests examine client-centered strategies for incorporating increased physical activity into daily habits and routines of older adults. 

Laboratory Projects:

Evaluating the feasibility of an occupational therapy geriatric primary care program

Examining the effectiveness of occupational therapy in an existing aging-in-place program for vulnerable older adults

Investigating the feasibility of a senior wellness program to reduce frailty and frailty-related disability in community-dwelling older adults

Neuromotor Recovery and Rehabilitation Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Amit Sethi, PhD, OTR/L, Assistant Professor 
Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Pittsburgh 

Laboratory Description: The Neuromotor Recovery and Rehabilitation Laboratory is a part of the Rehab Neural Engineering Laboratories (http://www.rnel.pitt.edu/people). The laboratory conducts studies examining the neural and biomechanical mechanisms contributing to deficits in the control and function of upper extremities in elderly and older adults with Stroke. The laboratory also conducts the efficacy and effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions to improve function of the upper extremities in adults with stroke. 

Laboratory Projects:

Examining the feasibility and efficacy of the combined brain and hand stimulation to improve hand function after stroke 

Examining the deficits in the interaction torques in the upper extremity joints after stroke

Evaluating the relationship between complexity of heart rate and recovery of motor function post stroke

Developing novel technologies to improve hand function after stroke

Cognitive Aging Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Juleen Rodakowski, OTD, MS, OTR/L, Assistant Professor 
Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Pittsburgh 
Clinical and Translational Science Institute, University of Pittsburgh 

Laboratory Description: The Cognitive Aging laboratory conducts clinical studies examining factors that influence independent living for older adults that are at-risk for disability. Factors examined include changes in mood and cognition as well as informal caregiver support. The primary line of research focuses on examination of non-pharmacological interventions to support independence among older adults who are at-risk for dementia due to Mild Cognitive Impairment. The secondary line of research examines the needs and potential interventions to support caregivers for individuals at-risk for or with complex disability.

Laboratory Projects:

University of Pittsburgh Clinical and Translational Science Institute (KL2 TR000146; Reis, PI)
Health Policy Related to Informal Caregiving (Stern Center for Evidence Based Policy; Morton, PI)

To view more on Dr. Rodakowski's work with the UPMC Caregiving Project, click here.

Pediatric Research Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Roxanna M. Bendixen, PhD, OTR/L, Assistant Professor, 
Department of Occupational Therapy

Laboratory Description: The Pediatric Research Laboratory conducts studies examining assessment and intervention for infants, children, and youth with chronic illness and disability, as well as family impact of raising a child with a chronic illness or disability. Current primary research interests include: infants and children with early onset neuromuscular disorders focused on participation and quality of life; validity and reliability of pediatric outcome measures; and community-based activity monitoring through portable fitness tracking devices. Secondary line of research focuses on technology and computer access for self-management and self-care as youth with disability transition into adulthood. Dr. Bendixen is also involved in service to the community through community-based interventions to increase participation in arts and culture for families of children with chronic illness and/or disability.

Laboratory Projects:

Use of the Microsoft Band as an Outcome Measure in Boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy – pilot feasibility study (Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne, PI: Bendixen, R.)
Use of the Microsoft Band as an Outcome Measure in Boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy – parallel study to Clinical Study for Vamorolone in DMD (ReveraGen and Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne, PI: Bendixen, R.)

Sleep Efficiency in Boys with DMD and their Caregivers (Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne, PI: Bendixen, R.)
Promoting Independence and Self-Management Using mHealth (DRRP – PI: Parmanto, B.)

Computer Access for Youth with Limited Speech and Physical Abilities - pilot feasibility study (Co-I: Bendixen, R)

Pediatric Health Promotion Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Angela R. Caldwell, PhD, OTR/L, CLT, Assistant Professor

Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Pittsburgh

Laboratory Description: The Pediatric Health Promotion Laboratory conducts clinical studies examining the relationships among early child health and development, family-centered interventions that promote child health, and novel approaches to intervention delivery in the community. Primarily, our research focuses on the development of pragmatic, parent-mediated interventions to advance child performance through exploration and play, that are embedded within daily routines and feature innovative approaches to parent-training. Secondarily, our research examines the delivery of pediatric health services and a variety of methods to expand access for all children and families.

Laboratory Projects:

Examining Relationships Between Family Mealtime Routines and Feeding Outcomes in Young Children with Sensory Food Aversions

Modifying Mealtimes to Lay the Foundation for a Culture of Health: Empowering Parents in Underserved Communities