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Focus on NOvEL Lab

Holland Bloorview’s newest lab is leading the way in brain injury research

Dr. Shannon Scratch has a lot on the go. As director of the Neuropsychology Outcomes via Education and Learning – or NOvEL Lab, she and her growing research team are constantly looking for ways to help people better understand how they can live their lives to the fullest.

What is neuropsychology? As a clinical neuropsychologist, as well as clinician scientist, Dr. Scratch specializes in examining how our cognitive skills, emotions and behaviour can change after an injury to the brain.

Indeed, the busy lab’s research focuses on a wide range of areas including teaching educators about acquired brain injury and creating interventions for those experiencing persistent concussion symptoms to learning how to live with this condition in their daily routines – all through a clinical lens.

“If I hear about a problem or a gap that I found in clinic, I try to find a way to fill it that gap,” says Dr. Scratch.

In addition, she has received three significant research grants this year to bolster her lab’s research work.

Child/Youth E-Mental Health Impact Grant
Study: Left in the waiting room: A digital intervention pilot for siblings of children with special needs.

Thanks to a $100,000 grant co-funded by Mental Health Research Canada and the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, Dr. Scratch and her research team will be able to adapt SibWorks, a peer support group for young siblings of kids with disabilities, to a virtual environment.

Led by Dr. Scratch and her graduate student, Marie Hooper, and in close partnership with Dr. Alex Elkader from Kinark, the aims of the i-SibS research project are to:

  • explore the acceptability, feasibility, and access of an online peer support group as a means of facilitating groups for siblings of children with special needs;
  • assess the impact of this group and whether it is maintained three months after group completion; and
  • explore whether children feel comfortable sharing their personal experiences online and demonstrate that i-SibS can be used therapeutically.

Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation (ONF)
Study: Supporting youth experiencing prolonged post-concussion symptoms: Pilot implementation of standardized measures to foster mental health

The Persistent Symptoms Concussion Clinic at Holland Bloorview is the only publicly funded interdisciplinary clinic of its kind in Ontario to work with youth experiencing persistent post-concussion symptoms and their families. The clinic helps these youth manage their symptoms and help them to engage fully in their daily lives.

However, many of these youth also experience mental health challenges.

To address this gap, this research project, funded by the ONF and led by Dr. Scratch and Christine Provvidenza, knowledge translation lead, will create a standardized approach for health-care providers to assess mental health symptoms (i.e. depression or anxiety) and family functioning.

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute grant

As part of a larger study based in the U.S. and led by Dr. Shari Wade, director of research at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Dr. Scratch and her research team will be the lead Canadian site. They will identify and screen youth, aged 13 to 19, who have experienced varying degrees of acquired brain injury. The Canadian team will then offer the TOPS program, a family problem-solving intervention designed by Dr. Wade, to those youth who meet certain criteria.

In addition, the researchers will also identify therapists and trainees to attend a two-day training workshop in these types of interventions, followed up by regular calls to review how successful they were in implementing these interventions with their clients and any challenges they experienced.