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Grant awarded to OT students researching Parkinson’s Disease intervention

Third-year occupational therapy students Paige Bernat, Jourdan Cunningham, Haley Evans, Karin Seley and Laura Turner have received grant funding for their research on the effect of LSVT-BIG on individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD).

LSVT-BIG is a relatively new intervention that focuses on the neuroplasticity, or changing of the brain, of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Initially, Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) was first introduced by speech-language pathologists to help increase speech volume for those with PD. LSVT-BIG was created to help increase the amplitude of movements for those with PD.

According to LSVT Global, Inc., LSVT-BIG is administered in 16 sessions over the course of one month, with four individual hour-long sessions per week. Treatment is intensive, complex and involves many repetitions of core movements to address the specific impairments of individuals with PD.

“Our goal is to determine if the LSVT-BIG treatment program can improve people’s performance in everyday tasks that are important and meaningful” Seley said. “Research has shown that LSVT-BIG improves biomechanical aspects of task performance – such as walking speed and reaching distance – but there’s been little research to determine if these biomechanical improvements carry over to improve everyday tasks, such as making the bed or buying groceries.”

Upon discovering that Associate Clinical Professor Whitney Henderson had become certified in LSVT-BIG, the students started their project in January 2016 as part of their research coursework in the OT graduate program. Bernat applied for the grant in June 2016, and the group received $1,500 from LSVT Global, Inc.

“I wanted to be involved in a project from the ground up and be a part of every step in order to learn more about the entire research process,” Bernat said.

According to Bernat, one of their patients has seen improvements in her ability to complete tasks like grocery shopping, preparing a meal and walking.

“This grant provides an excellent opportunity for occupational therapy students to contribute to the evidence-based practice that guides the profession,” Henderson said. “The students have dedicated significant time and energy to go beyond course expectations to secure the grant funding for this project.”

Ultimately, the students will have the opportunity to present their data at the annual American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) conference held in Philadelphia this March. Henderson anticipates a new group of students will finish the remaining portions of the project by the end of this summer.

“I have a few people in my life who have PD,” Cunningham said. “It would be nice to tell them how important participating in LSVT-BIG would be for their overall functional improvement.”