Our lab is working on several projects studying traumatic brain injury (TBI) in children. Children suffering TBI during early childhood are at high risk for deficits in the neuropsychological abilities that lay the foundation for social information processing skills and influence social behavior and adjustment. Despite concern that the social deficits following TBI may be more debilitating than the cognitive and physical consequences, minimal research has focused on social outcomes.

We recently completed participation in two integrated NIH-funded studies of child and family outcomes of TBI in children during early childhood (ages 3-7). Working in conjunction with research in the lab of Shari Wade, PhD, we investigated social outcomes for these children and tested a model of the development of social competence by adding measures of social information processing skills and narrative discourse 18 months post-injury.

Currently we are completing an R03 that expands upon these initial investigations by evaluating social competence with peers during the early school years (second through fourth grade) in the children who were originally injured between 3-6 years of age. The R03 is the first prospective study of later adjustment with peers following TBI.

We are also involved with Wade’s Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) for Traumatic Brain Injury Interventions (funded by the Department of Education / NIDRR). The RRTC is conducting three multisite randomized controlled trials to determine the efficacy of family-centered interventions for children with traumatic brain injury that focus on behavior, cognition, parenting skills and attention training. The RRTC will also develop and disseminate educational models and materials as well as a standardized battery of measures to be used in identifying change in this specific population.

Nicolay Chertkoff Walz, PhD, is also the site neuropsychologist for two other NIH-funded, multisite randomized controlled trials, both designed to test moderate hypothermia as an acute treatment for brain injury. One trial targets pediatric patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (Cool Kids) and the other focuses on patients with stroke (THACPA). Both of these trials are currently enrolling participants.