The Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research announces 2019 research grants

Foundation continues to support its mission to fund 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 four new grants to research teams from the University of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. The Foundations’ Board of Directors approved grants totaling $725,000.

“On behalf of the Foundation’s Board, it is exciting to support the research conducted by these renowned scientists who are so committed to finding the causes of, and best treatments for, traumatic brain injury,” 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 following is a list of the grants along with the names of the research team members and a description of the research:

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.

Fundamental and Applied Concussion Recovery
Principal Investigator(s): Joshua Hagen, PhD, Scott. Galster MD., Vcitor Finomore, MD., Ali Rezai, MD.
Institution: WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute

This team of doctors from West Virginia University will study approaches to treating concussions that they believe could improve patients’ rate of recovery while building strength within the patients’ nervous system to ultimately minimize the damage from future concussions. The researchers will work with NCAA-student athletes, adult clinical patients and military personnel. The military personnel will be active duty personnel as well as veterans currently being treated for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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 for concussions 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 challenging but extremely important work,” said Dr. Shelly Timmons, MD, PhD, FACS, FAANS, Professor of Neurosurgery at Penn State University (PSU) Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and member of the Chuck Noll Foundation National Science Advisory Committee. “It is so important to encourage and fund work in this area because every new piece of research can potentially bring us one step closer to understanding the long term effects of brain injury and help us to find new, more effective treatments for what can be a very debilitating injury.”

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
(412) 551-1770