Funding Some Big Ideas

Ryan Institute supports interdisciplinary research and outreach on brain-healthy lifestyles

The Ryan Institute is collaborating with the URI Institute for Integrated Health and Innovation (IIHI) to support two of the projects that were selected for IIHI funding as part of the “Big Ideas in Health” initiative. Each project will receive matching funds from the Ryan Institute, doubling the $10,000 granted by IIHI.

Colleen Redding

Colleen Redding

The first team, led by Research Professor Colleen Redding, Ph.D., a member of the Ryan Institute Faculty as well as the URI Cancer Prevention Research Center, will study the public’s understanding of the connection between behavior and brain health—the first step to developing more nuanced and effective interventions to improve health across communities.

Pat Burbank

Pat Burbank

The second, led by Professor of Nursing Instruction Pat Burbank, D.N.Sc., brings together faculty from nursing, nutrition, kinesiology, engineering, and gerontology to study the feasibility of developing a URI-affiliated senior housing community.

The Ryan Institute is also granting $10,000 in seed funding to explore how changes in posture and gait can indicate cognitive decline. Movements such as standing and walking may appear simple and routine, but they in fact involve coordination among multiple brain centers—some of the same areas of the brain whose function deteriorates in people with dementia.

Kim Fournier

Kim Fournier

Christie Ward-Ritacco

Christie Ward-Ritacco

This project, led by Kim Fournier, Ph.D., and Christie Ward-Ritacco, Ph.D., brings in faculty from several other URI departments including Cell and Molecular Biology and Psychology. The researchers hope to learn whether body position and movements, which can be measured quantitatively using biometric equipment, could be useful biomarkers for early stages of dementia and neurodegenerative disease.