Tara McIsaac, PhD, PT, associate professor of physical therapy at A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Health Sciences (ATSU-ASHS) in Mesa, recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The three-year, $384,000 award will support McIsaac’s research in neurosciences and neurological disorders.
McIsaac is interested in how the brain multitasks while driving. She hopes to identify how switching attention between tasks of the arm, such as steering, and those of the leg, such as braking or accelerating, are affected by Parkinson’s disease. Ultimately, she plans to develop rehabilitation strategies to reduce driving difficulties for patients with Parkinson’s disease, helping them retain their independence and quality of life.
Since 2014, McIsaac’s work has been funded by ATSU internal grants. She also received a $4,000 grant from the Warner-Fermaturo Fund, as well as $30,000 from the Strategic Research Fund to purchase a driving simulator. The NIH grant will support translation of this research to a “real world” simulated environment.
“The research support I’ve received from ATSU has been wonderful, and was critical to receiving the NIH award,” McIsaac said. “This grant will allow us to make a big step forward in finding ways to keep people with Parkinson’s disease driving more safely and for longer, particularly in the Phoenix metro area where non-drivers are often isolated.”
The grant is a collaboration with Jyothi Gupta, PhD, professor and chair of occupational therapy at ATSU-ASHS; Curt Bay, PhD, professor of interdisciplinary health sciences and biostatistician at ATSU-ASHS; Rajal Cohen, PhD, assistant professor of psychology and communication studies at the University of Idaho; and Charles Adler, MD, PhD, international expert on Parkinson’s disease and professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.