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Visit the research spaces of the Department of Occupational Therapy:

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:

Prosper in Participation Laboratory

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

Laboratory Description: The Prosper in Participation 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 the 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 disabilities.

Laboratory Projects:

Facilitating Optimal Routines in Aging (National Institute on Aging, PI: Rodakowski)

Click here to visit the Prosper in Participation laboratory website!

Occupational Therapy Cognitive Performance Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Elizabeth R. Skidmore, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, FACRM, Professor and Chair
Department of Occupational Therapy, 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 on 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:

Adapting Daily Activity Performance Through Strategy Training

Implementing Strategy Training in Inpatient Rehabilitation

Optimizing Strategy Training for People with Aphasia

Promoting Community Participation and Health After Stroke

Detection, Assessment, and Rehabilitation of Stroke-induced Visual Neglect

Community Participation Following Traumatic Brain Injury

Stakeholder-Driven Cancer Rehabilitation Intervention

Implementing Strategy Training in Outpatient Chronic Pain Clinics

Occupational Therapy Productive Aging Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Pamela Toto, PhD, OTR/L, BCG, FAOTA, FGSA, 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 disability and prevent adverse events in older adults. Secondary research interests examine client-centered strategies for incorporating increased physical activity into the daily habits and routines of older adults.

Laboratory Projects:

Examining the Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE) Intervention: A Scale-Up Project with Family Caregivers and the Area Agency on Aging (NIDILRR, PI)

Modified Application of Cardiac Rehabilitation for Older Adults (MACRO) (NIA, CO-I)

Reducing Social Isolation for Low-Income Older Adults through Technology (PI)

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 the function of the upper extremities in adults with stroke. 

Laboratory Projects:

Synchronized brain, nerve and muscle stimulation to improve hand function after stroke 

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

Developing telerehabilitation-based technologies to deliver interventions to improve upper extremity function after stroke

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, family-based interventions to advance child performance and enhance development through exploration and play. Interventions are embedded within daily routines and feature innovative approaches to parent-coaching and behavior change. Secondarily, our research focuses on reducing health disparities observed during childhood and the prevention of secondary conditions for children with disabilities.

Laboratory Projects:

Development of an Obesity Prevention Intervention for Young Children with Down Syndrome

Facilitators and Barriers to Health among Young Children with Down Syndrome: FaB Health Ds

Pediatric Research Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Roxanna M. Bendixen, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Associate Professor
Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Pittsburgh

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; effectiveness of a caregiver-led pediatric sleep intervention; and community-based activity monitoring through portable fitness tracking devices. The secondary line of research focuses on technology and computer access for self-management and self-care as youth with disabilities 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 ActiGraph GT9X as an Outcome Measure in Boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy – parallel study to Clinical Trial for Vamorolone in DMD (ReveraGen Pharmaceuticals, PI: Bendixen, R.)

Addressing Sleep Health in the Battle Against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: A Transdiagnostic Intervention (Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne, PI: Bendixen, R.)

Strategies for Serving Individuals with Physical and/or Developmental Disability Living in the Jewish Community of Greater Pittsburgh (Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, PI: Bendixen, R.)

Use of a Powered Arm Support Device for Upper Limb Function in Non-Ambulatory Men with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne, PI: Bendixen, R.)

Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disability: Participation, Health, and Wellbeing (PCORI, Co-PI: Bendixen, R.)

Rehabilitation Health Services Research Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Natalie E. Leland, PhD, OTR/L, BCG, FAOTA, FGSA Associate Professor
Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Pittsburgh

Laboratory Description: The Rehabilitation Health Services Research Laboratory engages in research that examines the quality, access, and outcomes of rehabilitation across the care continuum. With a special focus on disparities and health inequity, this line of inquiry includes quantifying current care delivery utilization, practices, and their relationship to desired patient outcomes as well as evaluating approaches for enhancing the dissemination and implementation of best practices into the clinic.

Laboratory Projects:

Optimizing Care for Patients with Dementia: A Comparison of Two Non-Pharmacological Treatment Strategies

Exploring the Perspectives and Experiences of Informal Caregivers of Individuals with Dementia Residing in a Nursing Home

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Interventions for Caregivers of Individuals with Chronic Conditions

Characterizing Contemporary Practice to Inform Quality Measure Development

Post-Acute Care Therapy Outcomes

Occupational Therapy’s Role in Primary Care

Identifying Patient-Centered Fall Prevention Care Processes in Hip Fracture Rehabilitation

Examining Post-Acute Rehabilitation Processes and Outcomes Following Spinal Cord Injury

Understanding Best Practice for Functional Cognition Assessment

Exploring Diverse Caregiver Priorities of Dementia Care