Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research awards research grant to the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute

Foundation to support Institute’s innovative research regarding concussions and traumatic brain injury

Pittsburgh, PA (April 29, 2019) – The Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research today announced that it has awarded West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute $150,000 to support new research focused on concussions and concussion recovery. This grant is part of the Foundation’s second round of funding for research that seeks to find discoveries that can lead to better patient care for those who suffer from neurological disease or traumatic brain injury. In addition to the Rockefeller Institute, grants totaling $725,000 have also been awarded to research teams from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“The scientists and researchers at the Rockefeller Institute, under the leadership of Dr. Rezai, are committed to transforming the lives of individuals who suffer from debilitating brain disorders and injuries and we are proud to support the incredibly important work that they do,” said Arthur J. Rooney II, Chairman of the Foundation Board. “While we have seen progress in the research in this area, there is still much work to be done and many questions that still need to be answered. That is why the Foundation’s Board and its Scientific Advisory Committee are so pleased to award these new grants.”

The Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) is an integrated team of over 150 physicians and neuroscientists working with key partners in industry, government, and foundations to accelerate neuroscience research and improve the care for patients with neurological conditions. “At the RNI, our mission is to improve lives by pioneering advances in brain health,” said Dr. Ali Rezai, Executive Chair of the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. “We need to leverage and apply the latest technology in non-invasive nervous system monitoring and neuromodulation for concussion, and we are very thankful for the support of the Chuck Noll Foundation. This grant will facilitate research progress in this important area of study.”

The grant is for a research in Fundamental and Applied Concussion Recovery (Principal Investigator(s): Joshua Hagen, PhD, Scott. Galster PhD., Vcitor Finomore, PhD., Ali Rezai, MD.) This team will study autonomic nervous system monitoring and the use of next generation recovery and neuromodulation technology such as flotation tanks in concussion treatment and recovery. The researchers will work with athletes, military and clinical patient populations.

In addition to the grant for the Rockefeller Institute, the Foundation is supporting the following research teams:

Levetiracetam as a therapy for synaptic dysfunction after repetitive mild traumatic brain injury
Principal Investigator: Shaun Carlson, Ph.D.
Co-Investigator: C. Edward Dixon, Ph.D.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh: Department of Neurological Surgery

Drs. Carlson and Dixon have identified a medication currently used to treat seizures that could have potential to restore transmission of nerve impulses between brain cells. Drs. Carlson and Dixon will conduct research to further unveil whether Levetiracetam can lessen the damage that can occur during mild head traumas to the mechanisms or pathways that allow nerve impulses to move between cells in the brain. If successful, more research will be necessary but the goal is to have a readily available medication to reduce the damage done by multiple mild brain injuries.

Sulfonylurea Receptor-1 and Glyburide: Preventing Brain Swelling and Providing Neuroprotection in Traumatic Brain Injury
Principal Investigator(s): Ruchira M. Jha, MD., Patrick M. Kochanek, MD
Institution: University of Pittsburgh, Department of Critical Care Medicine, and Departments of Neurology and Neurological surgery; University of Pittsburgh Safar Center for Resuscitation Research; Rangos Research Center, Children’s Hospital Pittsburgh

Drs. Jha and Kochanek will research a rare but devastating condition experienced by some high school and college athletes called Second-Impact Syndrome (SIS). SIS occurs when the brain swells rapidly after a person suffers a second concussion before symptoms from an earlier concussion are healed. The condition can be fatal or may result in severe disability. Little is known about the causes and currently there is no preventive treatment available. The research, if successful, could lead to ways of identifying athletes at high risk for SIS before it occurs as well as possible treatments with currently available drugs.

Saliva Biomarkers in Adolescents
Principal Investigator(s): Drs. Amelia Versace, David Brent, Anthony Kontos, Michael Collins
Institution: University of Pittsburgh, Department of Psychiatry

The research team will attempt to determine if saliva testing can identify changes in brain function allowing for a more rapid diagnosis of a concussion. Saliva fluid contains a wide range of products from the body, including genetic material, enzymes and antibodies. Testing saliva is a technique used to diagnose numerous conditions but has never been used in aggregate with neuroimaging measures for concussions.

The research to be conducted over a year will include testing of saliva from a large number of youths who have experienced a recent head trauma. Drs. Versace, Brent, Kontos and Collins will seek to determine if there is a relationship between the components of the saliva and different symptoms each youth experiences as a result of their concussions and how this relates with neuroimaging measures of brain structure and functioning. If a relationship is found, then physicians may be more able to accurately develop a treatment plan for youths who suffer concussions in the future.

“Research focused on the causes of concussions and traumatic brain injury is very difficult, but extremely important work,” said Dr. Julian Bailes, Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and Co-Director of the North Shore Neurological Institute, and member of the Chuck Noll Foundation National Science Advisory Committee. “It is so important to support and encourage work in this area because every new piece of research can potentially bring us one step closer to understanding the long term effects of head injury and, at the same time, help us to find new, more effective treatments for what can be a very debilitating injury. As former Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at WVU, I’m proud of the excellent research being conducted at the Rockefeller Institute and pleased that the Chuck Noll Foundation can play a part in supporting their work.”

The Chuck Noll Foundation was established in December 2016 through a seed grant from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Chuck Noll, for whom the Foundation is named, was the beloved head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969-1991, earning four Super Bowl titles during his tenure. His career culminated with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Noll’s commitment to the well-being of his players ultimately led the Steelers to initiate the start up of the Foundation in Chuck Noll’s name.

More information on the Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research can be found at:

Media Contact: John Denny

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