Jan 29, 2015
Huskers Partner with Brain Lab

A University of Nebraska brain researcher is partnering with the school’s athletic department to study how the brain recovers from injury. Recently, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved a $5 million expenditure to equip a new athletic performance laboratory that will be located in Memorial Stadium. The athletic department will pay $1.5 million of the $5 million cost to outfit the new lab, which will feature tools for assessing and studying brain injuries.
The facility will be a sister lab to the university’s Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, which will be run by Dennis Molfese, a developmental psychologist in Nebraska’s Department of Psychology. Both labs are slated to open in the summer of 2013.

Through his partnership with the athletic department, Molfese told the Omaha World-Herald he plans to obtain baseline pictures of incoming athletes’ brains and examine how they change through injury and recovery. Much of his research relies heavily on “evoked potential technology,” which are machines that use electrode nets placed on a subject’s head to measure the brain’s electrical impulses as it responds to stimulus. Molfese said he also envisions developing iPad applications to diagnose concussions on the field and wants to study athletes’ brain patterns before and after a performance.

In addition to its work with Husker student-athletes, the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior will coordinate collaborative studies of concussions among other Big Ten athletes.

“We’re the last university to join the Big Ten, but we’re taking the initiative with this,” Molfese told the World-Herald. “The level of collaboration is unprecedented.”

Molfese told the World-Herald that on average, a college football team suffers 20 to 22 significant head injuries each season. So studying each of the 12 football teams in the Big Ten should create a pool of more than 240 student-athletes to study. In addition, Molfese said there have been inquiries from the Ivy League, Pac-12, and other conferences about joining the research efforts.

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