Villanova Engineering Researcher to Contribute to NIH Study on Mobility of MS Patients

Dr. Meltem Izzetoglu

Dr. Meltem Izzetoglu, associate research professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Biomedical Signals, Systems and Analysis Laboratory, is part of a multi-institutional team awarded a $704,983 National Institute of Health grant for "Brain systems of locomotion and falls in older persons with multiple sclerosis." Under the direction of principal investigator Dr. Roee Holtzer of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Izzetoglu and researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and the University of Alabama at Birmingham aim to identify brain systems, structures and novel mechanisms of mobility using advanced neuroimaging methods which can predict increased incident fall risk among MS patients.

“Falls in multiple sclerosis (MS) are very common and are associated with a multitude of adverse outcomes including disability and death,” says Dr. Izzetoglu, whose subcontract portion of the grant is $163,061. Recent epidemiological evidence suggests a shift in the peak prevalence of MS into older age groups, and this will likely coincide with co-occurring aging and MS-related declines in mobility and cognition. Cognitive impairments include processing speed, executive functions and memory.

Dr. Izzetoglu will lead the efforts in the design, development and application of project specific analysis methods for the processing of neuroimaging data that will be collected in this study. She will take part in the evaluation and interpretation of the neuroimaging outcomes for the assessment of brain mechanisms involved in the cognitive control of locomotion and identification of brain-based biomarkers predictive of falls.

“Research concerning brain control of mobility in MS has been scarce and the functional brain systems responsible for cognitive control of walking in MS remain largely unknown, which significantly impedes translation to clinical interventions,” explains Dr. Izzetoglu. Therefore, identifying novel and potentially modifiable biomarkers of falls and mobility impairments in older MS patients is of paramount epidemiological and clinical significance and will have a major impact on knowledge and potential implications for assessment and treatment.