Main Content:

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, Associate Professor 
Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Pittsburgh 

Laboratory Description: The mission of the Hand Motion Laboratory is to examine workers’ health and the physical performance of work tasks with a focus on computer use and its effect on health. The lab has diverged into two separate but interrelated areas: 1) research on methods to modify work performance to prevent illness or injury; and 2) research which develops methods to reduce work disability in individuals who already have an injury or illness.

Laboratory Projects:

Developing and Using the Keyboard - Personal Computing Style Instrument (K-PeCS) (1 K01 OH007826; Baker, PI)
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Alternative Keyboards on Musculoskeletal Symptoms (R01 OH008961; Baker, PI)
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Conservative Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Arthritis Foundation, Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter; Baker, PI)
Exploring computer and device use by people with rheumatoid arthritis
Tele-ergonomics
Predicting musculoskeletal disorders

Occupational Therapy Cognitive Performance Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Elizabeth R. Skidmore, PhD, OTR/L, Associate 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:

Examining Interactions among Neurobehavior and Disability after Stroke (K12 HD055931; Skidmore, PI)
Cognitive and Affective Influences on Motor Recovery after Stroke (University of Pittsburgh Central Research Development Fund; Skidmore, PI)
CO-OPerative Training for Stroke Rehabilitation (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Rehabilitation Institute; University of Pittsburgh Competitive Medical Research Fund; Skidmore, PI)
Guided versus Directed Training in Acute Stroke Rehabilitation (R03 HD073770; Skidmore, PI)
Repetitive Task Practice to Address Unilateral Spatial Neglect in Chronic Stroke (UL1 TR000005; UL1 RR024153; Skidmore, PI)
Development of a Sensitive and Efficient Measure of Disability Among Community-dwelling Older Adults at Risk for Depression (P30 MH090333; Reynolds, PI; Skidmore, Project PI)
Adapting Daily Activity Performance Through Strategy Training (R01 HD074693; Skdimore, PI)

Occupational Therapy Productive Aging Laboratory

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

Laboratory description: The Occupational Therapy Productive Aging Laboratory conducts studies examining strategies to maximize participation and promote aging-in-place for older adults. Primary research interests include: client-centered care models; using goal attainment scaling and compensatory intervention models for special populations such as clients who are frail or have complex, chronic health conditions. Secondary research interests examine the impact of restorative interventions on occupational engagement, participation and quality of life in older adults.

Laboratory Projects:

Examining the feasibility of TRANSITIONS - a client-centered compensatory intervention for frail older adults transitioning from skilled nursing facilities to home
Evaluating the feasibility of goal attainment scaling in geriatric primary care
Investigating the impact of a client-centered physical activity program on activities of daily living (ADLs) in sedentary older adults

Upper Extremity Motor Performance Laboratory

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

Laboratory description: The Upper Extremity Motor Performance Laboratory conducts studies examining the biomechanical mechanisms contributing to deficits in motor control and function of upper extremities in elderly and older adults with neurological deficits (stroke, brain injury, and Parkinson’s disease), the efficacy and effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions to improve motor and function of upper extremities in adults with neurological deficits, and the dynamical aspects of physiological and movement complexity utilizing the tools of non-linear analyses.

Laboratory Projects:

Examining the central and peripheral contributions to motor recovery in upper extremity post stroke
Evaluating the relationship between complexity of heart rate and recovery of motor function post stroke
Investigating the effect of complexity of grip force upon participation of activities of daily living in elderly

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)

 

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 community-based interventions through participation in arts and culture for families of children with chronic illness and/or disability; and technology for self-management and self-care as youth with disability transition into adulthood.

Laboratory Projects:

Use of the Microsoft Band as an Outcome Measure in Boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy – pilot feasibility study (Clark Foundation, 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 (Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne, PI: Bendixen, R.)
Promoting Independence and Self-Management Using mHealth (DRRP – PI B. Parmanto)
Reliability and validity of the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales (PDMS) Version 3 (Pro-Ed testing)
Development and participation in community-based sensory friendly events for youth with intellectual/developmental disability and their families