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Family Research Scholars from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Awarded Over $9.2 Million in Research Funds

Funded during 2011-2012 - Scholars from The Center for Research on Families (CRF) include: Yu-Kyong Choe / COMMUNICATION DISORDERS DEPT. (AHA), Elizabeth Krause / ANTHROPOLOGY DEPT. (NSF/Wenner-Gren) / Jacquie Kurland / COMMUNICATION DISORDERS DEPT. (NIH), Heather N. Richardson / PSYCHOLOGY DEPT. (NIH), Lisa Scott / PSYCHOLOGY DEPT. (NSF/ARMY), Rebecca Spencer / PSYCHOLOGY DEPT. (NIH)

The Center for Research on Families (CRF) announces over $9.6 million in national research grants recently awarded to its Family Research Scholars. The Scholars’ program, which is celebrating its tenth year anniversary this year, continues to further family research using a cross-disciplinary model. These nine new grants tackle a variety of complex objectives delving into such neuroscience, social and behavioral science, and public health topics as:


-   how stereotypes emerge from  infants’ perceptual development

-   how binge drinking can affect the developing brain during adolescence

-   how migrant Chinese families cope as they produce Italian fashion

-   how robotic technology can improve the lives of stroke survivors and their caregivers

-   how individuals with chronic aphasia can recover language and improve quality of life

-   how sleep protects and enhances memory in adolescents and young adults

-   how fragmentation of sleep may interrupt memory processing in older adults


Thanks to these family researchers and commitments from The National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, American Heart Association and the Army Research Institute new discoveries and innovation will lead to a substantially improved understanding of family health and development.


In addition, Professor Yu-Kyong Choe of the Communications Disorders Department was recently awarded $109,292 from the American Heart Association.  Her project, titled "Interdisciplinary Stroke Rehabilitation Delivered by a Humanoid Robot,” is aimed at improving the lives of stroke survivors through treatment delivered by robotics technology. Dr. Choe will examine the impact of robot-mediated therapies for the functional recovery, quality of life, and burden of care for stroke victims and their families.


The National Science Foundation also granted a  two year $165,000 award to Professor Elizabeth Krause for her project entitled, “Tight Knit:  Familistic Encounters in a Translational Fast-Fashion District.” She seeks to illuminate how families negotiate the terms of transnational capitalism and the novel models of social organization and practices that have resulted in one region of southern Europe. The study focuses on relations between and within local Italian and immigrant Chinese families in Prato, Italy. Each of these populations has specific histories of flexibility and networking strategies moored in familistic regimes. The project seeks to understand how different varieties of familism persist or morph. On the heels of her recent NSF award Krause was also awarded a collaborative research grant in the amount of $34,741 from the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Krause’s collaborator overseas is Anthropologist Massimo Bressan of the Italian IRIS Institute.


An award of $1,757,185 went to Assistant professor Jacquie Kurland of the Communications Disorder Department from the National Institutes of Health to fund her research project, “Overcoming Learned Non-Use in Chronic Aphasia: Behavioral, fMRI, and QoL Outcomes” Her work investigates brain reorganization following intensive therapy for individuals with aphasia. This longitudinal study will investigate treatment-induced neuroplasticity and language gains, as well as factors that correlate with improved quality of life for chronically aphasic individuals and their significant others.


Psychology professor Heather N. Richardson was awarded $411,351 for her project entitled, “Effect of Voluntary Binge Drinking on the Prefrontal Cortex in Adolescent Rats.” Richardson studies the influences of heavy, episodic alcohol consumption (i.e. “binge drinking”) on neurological and behavioral development using rodent models. This research has the capacity to contribute greatly to understanding what drives binge drinking in male and female adolescents and how this risky behavior impacts addiction in adulthood.


Associate Professor Lisa Scott of the Psychology Department received two research grants this year totaling $2,607,272.  Scott’s research involves the study of the neural mechanisms of perceptual category learning and perceptual experience in both children and adults.  With funding from Army Research Institute, she will be leading a team of collaborators at the University of Colorado and University of Victoria on a project titled,“Exploring the use of features in perceptual expertise.”   She was also awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER grant, “Perceptual narrowing and cortical development in infancy”


Rebecca Spencer, Assistant Professor of Psychology, has been awarded $3.7 million from the National Institutes of Health. These two 5 year grants are from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Aging. The research will focus on sleep and memory in both young (“The Benefit of Naps on Cognitive, Emotional and Motor Learning in Preschoolers”) and older (“Sleep-Dependent Memory Processing in Older Adults”) participants. The research will also advance our understanding of cognitive deficits in other diseases in which sleep disturbances are frequently observed.


All of these individuals participated in CRF’s Family Research Scholars (FRS) Program, which provides support for select faculty members to submit major grant proposals on family research. Scott and Kurland both became Scholars in 2009, Choe, Richardson and Spencer joined the program in 2010 and Krause came on board just this past year. Scholars participate in a yearlong interdisciplinary faculty seminar that addresses the details of conceptualizing and writing proposals. In addition, CRF’s methodological support and meetings with relevant funding agencies and off-campus experts in the scholars’ targeted areas of family research provide scholars with individualized consultation. In the past ten years, 50 faculty members have participated in the FRS program, which has yielded 136 submitted proposals. 


CRF actively supports and disseminates research on issues relevant to families. For more information about the Center for Research on Families or the Family Research Scholars Program, visit our new web site at contact Director Sally Powers (413-545-3307) or Associate Director, Wendy Varner (413-545-3593).


About The Center for Research on Families: CRF’s mission is to increase research on family issues, to build a multidisciplinary community of researchers who are studying issues of relevance to families, to connect national and internationally prominent family researchers with UMass faculty and students, to provide advanced data analytic methods training and consultation, and to disseminate family research findings to scholars, families, practitioners, and policy-makers. CRF is a research center of the College of Natural Sciencesand the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and has affiliated faculty from departments across campus. In addition, the Center collaborates with other institutions on this campus, within the University of Massachusetts system, and with the Five College community.

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