Since his days as a graduate student at the University of Nebraska, Dr. Patrick Ledwidge has been fascinated by and drawn to research the phenomena of concussion, a mild traumatic brain injury which he describes as “an invisible disorder of the mind which can affect how people think; it may be subtle, but it can have a big impact on people’s lives.”
With the help of co-director Christa Jones and their sponsoring organization, Women for BW, Ledwidge has parlayed his intellectual curiosity about the subject into an event known as the Northeast Ohio Concussion Summit: Diagnosing, Managing, and Treating Concussion which showcases the local advancements being made in both research and clinical applications specific to concussion.
The summit was co-directed by Ledwidge and Jones, an assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders and a certified speech language pathologist, with whom he has collaborated on research relating to the effects of concussion on brain function, language, and cognition.
Ledwidge is an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience, and he founded and directs the interdisciplinary Cognition, Brain, and Language (CBL) Lab, which he set in motion upon arriving on campus.
Ledwidge said the pair “wrote a grant to develop this event because we are passionate about educating our community about concussion. We thought that there was a need for this, and that Northeast Ohio is a unique hub for healthcare; we felt this event could integrate the local community with world-class healthcare providers in the area.”
Sandstone Three, a spacious venue in the basement of Strosacker Hall, hosted the event on Oct. 10, beginning at 6:30 p.m. After brief remarks from the event organizers, three guest speakers each gave 20-minute presentations. Following their presentations, the audience was invited to enjoy a catered reception in Sandstone One, replete with an exotic spread and lengthy discussions amongst students, community members, and the invited speakers. Students participating in relevant research also had an opportunity to present informative posters during this time.
Ledwidge said that the event was designed to “be enlightening” and “to bring together expert clinicians and scientists to speak about the practical clinical work they are doing, the services that are available locally to those dealing with the symptoms and aftermath of concussion, and to provide the most up-to-date information to the community.
The three invited speakers were all local leaders in the management of concussion healthcare or the execution of relevant research. In order, the audience heard from Dr. Christopher Bailey, director of the University Hospital Sports Medicine Concussion Center, Dr. Angela Ciccia, a professor of psychological and communication sciences at Case Western Reserve University, and Dr. Joseph Congeni, the medical director of the Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. The presenters covered topics ranging from myths about concussion, to the academic implications of childhood concussion.
One alumnus rose during a Q&A to thank the presenters and the organizers, explaining that he had been dealing with concussion symptoms for more than half a decade, and that the Summit had provided the best and clearest explanation of concussion and its variety of forms that he had ever heard.
The event was facilitated by student volunteers, including junior neuroscience and psychology major Erin Neff, who serves as lab manager for the CBL Lab.
Neff said that she and a team of about 10 volunteers from the lab and the campus speech clinic were responsible for “presenting the student research posters, signing people in, and fielding basic questions about the event.” Neff has been a part of the lab since her freshman year, so she felt the “Concussion Summit was the place to be.”
Neff said, “I wanted to hear all the speakers, I was proud to present our research, and my role in the lab made it easy to step in and volunteer.”
Ledwidge said, “Prior to the event we hoped that the reception would organically facilitate networking between those in need of medical treatment and those capable of providing that treatment or connecting survivors to those best equipped to help. We were pleased with how that turned out.”
Students have played an integral role in Dr. Ledwidge’s research throughout his time on campus.
Explaining their role, he said, “Myself and my students work as a collaborative team to develop this research. Students help contribute to research design as well as procedural elements of data collection. The overall goal is to generate findings which will inform clinical practice, and ultimately, to use brain recording techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG) to predict recovery and develop interventions and treatments which can speed up recovery.”
Ledwidge also said, “we are excited to continue to contribute to the medical, clinical, and scientific work being done on this issue and in this region.”