The Treble-Barna Lab for Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury Research

Understanding Factors Influencing Neurobehavioral Recovery From Pediatric TBI

Understanding Factors Influencing Neurobehavioral RecoveryUnder the leadership of Amery Treble-Barna, PhD, researchers of this lab aim to develop a comprehensive understanding of the multitude of factors that interact to influence neurobehavioral recovery from pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI), and to use this information to improve patient outcomes.

TBI is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in childhood. The scientific evidence available to guide prognosis, management, and treatment is disproportionately low relative to TBI’s medical and societal burden. Children sustaining moderate to severe TBI often demonstrate neurobehavioral impairments that hamper their long-term functioning. Current prediction models, however, explain only about 35% of variance in these outcomes. Without the identification of additional factors influencing recovery, this unexplained heterogeneity will remain one of the most critical barriers to accurate prognostication and to the development of evidence-based treatments for the neurobehavioral consequences of pediatric TBI.

Working from biopsychosocial and precision medicine frameworks, the Treble-Barna Lab is studying the effects of a variety of factors influencing neurobehavioral recovery from pediatric TBI, including:

  • Developmental – age
  • Environmental – family, psychosocial adversity
  • Personal biological – genetic, epigenetic
  • Therapeutic – rehabilitation, neuropsychological evaluation

The lab aims to use this knowledge to improve individual prognostication, predict response to rehabilitation, and identify novel targets for treatment development.

Areas of Focus

Investigating Epigenetic Influences on Neurobehavioral Recovery From Pediatric TBI

Investigating Epigenetic Influences on Neurobehavioral RecoveryFunded by the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, the Treble-Barna Lab is currently enrolling children with TBI or orthopedic injuries into a study examining the influence of epigenetic factors on neurobehavioral recovery. Over the last decade, the field of epigenetics has become central to studying the modulation of genetic phenotypes by environmental factors. Broadly defined, epigenetics involves biochemical processes that regulate gene expression without altering the corresponding primary DNA sequence. Through epigenetic processes, the social and biological environment of an individual impacts when and to what extent genes are expressed within each cell type.

The overarching goal of this study is to investigate an epigenetic biomarker involved in both childhood adversity and post-injury neuroplasticity to better understand heterogeneity in neurobehavioral outcomes following TBI.


Development and Initial Validation of a Caregiver-report Measure of Rehabilitation Utilization Following Pediatric TBI

One factor that may explain differences in pediatric TBI recovery is inconsistent use of the broad variety of available rehabilitation services; however, this has not been confirmed because no scientifically rigorous, comprehensive, standardized, or validated measure of rehabilitation utilization currently exists. TBI rehabilitation encompasses a wide range of multidisciplinary services spanning the care continuum from the ICU to the community. Utilization of rehabilitation services following pediatric TBI is highly variable. Our long-term goal is to examine whether variance in rehabilitation utilization accounts for some of the unexplained heterogeneity in outcomes following pediatric TBI. If we can reduce heterogeneity in our models of TBI recovery, we can provide more accurate prognostication and improve our ability to test the efficacy of treatments. As a critical first step, we are developing, refining, and conducting initial validation of a caregiver-report measure of rehabilitation utilization, the Rehabilitation Utilization Measure (RUM). We are combining qualitative and quantitative methods to engage caregiver, clinician, and scientist stakeholders in measure development and refinement and conducting initial measure validation.


Evaluating the Impact of Neuropsychological Evaluation on Needs and Service Utilization Following Pediatric TBI

Evaluating the Impact of Neuropsychological EvaluationClinical neuropsychologists aim to understand the nature of cognitive and behavioral problems in children with TBI by conducting comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations, to identify evidence-based interventions and environmental accommodations tailored to the unique needs of each child. This also requires educating and empowering the child’s caregivers, medical providers, and school personnel to follow through with the recommended services. To our knowledge, no studies have examined the impact of the neuropsychological evaluation on reducing unmet/unrecognized needs or increasing service utilization in children with TBI. With funding support from the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology Foundation, the Treble-Barna Lab is currently enrolling children with TBI into a study comparing unmet/unrecognized needs and service utilization in children who did and did not receive neuropsychological evaluation within 1 year post-injury.

Lab Team & Contact Information

Amery Treble-Barna, PhD

Principal Investigator
amery.treble@chp.edu
Read More >> 

Lauren Kaseman
Clinical Research Coordinator
LMK109@pitt.edu

Research Assistants

Aboli Kesbhat
Julia Schwartz
Julia Tefs

Medical Student

Pallavi Muluk

View the list of the Treble-Barna Lab's team alumni (PDF).

Contact Us

The Treble-Barna Lab
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
Administrative Office Building, Suite 4217
4401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
412-692-6418

News & Activities

View current news below featuring the research, staff and advancements of the Treble-Barna Lab for Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury Research at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Richard King Mellon Institute for Pediatric Research. Please check back often for continued updates.

Lab Activities and Achievements

2021

Amery Treble-Barna, PhD, was awarded an R03 grant from the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development for her project, “Development and Initial Validation of a Caregiver-report Measure of Rehabilitation Utilization Following Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury.”

2019

Amery Treble-Barna, PhD, was awarded a K01 Career Development Award from the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development for her project, “Epigenetic Influences on Neurobehavioral Recovery Following Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury.”

Dr. Treble-Barna and Laura Blackwell, PhD, of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, were awarded the Outcome Studies Grant from the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology Foundation for their project, “Evaluating the Impact of Neuropsychological Evaluation on Unmet/unrecognized Needs and Service Utilization Following Pediatric TBI.”

Research assistant, Noelle Marousis, BS, was awarded Best Poster Presentation by an Undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh/UPMC Rehabilitation Institute Research Day for her presentation, “Can Personal Biology Account for Unexplained Heterogeneity in Neurobehavioral Outcomes following Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury? Feasibility and Acceptability of Research Methods.”

2018

Amery Treble-Barna, PhD, was selected as a KL2 Scholar in the University of Pittsburgh Clinical and Translational Science Scholars Program funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.


Presentations at Scientific Meetings

2021

Amery Treble-Barna, PhD, presented “BDNF Val66Met and Neuropsychological Function Following Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury” at the National Academy of Neuropsychology meeting in Washington, D.C.

2020

Clinical research coordinator Jamie Patronick, BS, was accepted to present a poster entitled, “Review of genetic factors associated with recovery after traumatic brain injury: A 4-year update,” at the 2021 annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society (a virtual event).

Research assistant Namita Thomas, BS, presented a poster, entitled “Needs and service utilization following pediatric traumatic brain injury,” at the annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Denver.

2019

Amery Treble-Barna, PhD, presented, “Caregiver-reported rehabilitation utilization in the first 6 months following early childhood traumatic brain injury,” at the 13th World Congress on Brain Injury in Toronto, Canada.

Research coordinator, Srivatsan Uchani, BS, presented a poster, entitled “Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) DNA Methylation and Brain-related Clinical Outcomes: A Systematic Review,” at the annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in New York.

Research coordinator, Jamie Patronick, BS, presented a poster, entitled “Assessment of Acute Neuropsychological Functioning Following Pediatric TBI Using the NIH Toolbox-Cognition Battery,” at the annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in New York.

Research assistant, Noelle Marousis, BS, presented a poster, entitled “Can Personal Biology Account for Unexplained Heterogeneity in Neurobehavioral Outcomes Following Pediatric TBI? Feasibility and Acceptability of Research Methods,” at the annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in New York.

Dr. Treble-Barna presented, “Influence of Candidate Inflammation-related Genes on Neurobehavioral Recovery Following Traumatic Brain Injury During Early Childhood,” at the annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in New York.

2018

Graduate student, Navya Kamath, PhD, presented a poster, entitled “Ethnicity, SES, and Adaptive Function as Predictors of Health-related Quality of Life Among Children and Adolescents with Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele,” at the Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Washington, D.C.

Research coordinator, Srivatsan Uchani, BS, presented a poster, entitled “Adverse Childhood Experiences and Neuropsychological Outcomes Among Adults with Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury: Preliminary Results,” at the annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society in Washington, D.C.

Publications

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Val66Met and Behavioral Adjustment after Early Childhood Traumatic Brain Injury
Treble-Barna A, Wade SL, Pilipenko V, Martin LJ, Yeates KO, Taylor HG, Kurowski BG.
Journal of Neurotrauma
2021 Apr 13, Online ahead of print

Acute Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor DNA Methylation Trajectories in Cerebrospinal Fluid and Associations With Outcomes Following Severe Traumatic Brain Injury in Adults
Treble-Barna A, Heinsberg LW, Puccio AM, Shaffer JR, Okonkwo DO, Beers SR, Weeks DE, Conley YP
Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
2021 Jun 25, Online ahead of print

Epigenetic Effects on Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery (EETR): An Observational, Prospective, Longitudinal Concurrent Cohort Study Protocol
Treble-Barna A, Patronick J, Uchani S, Marousis NC, Zigler CK, Fink EL, Kochanek PM, Conley YP, Yeates KO
Frontiers in Neurology
2020 Jun 12

Cumulative Influence of Inflammatory Response Genetic Variation on Long-Term Neurobehavioral Outcomes after Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury Relative to Orthopedic Injury: An Exploratory Polygenic Risk Score
Treble-Barna A, Pilipenko V, Wade SL, Jegga AG, Yeates KO, Taylor HG, Martin LJ, Kurowski BG
Journal of Neurotrauma
2020 Jul

PICU-based Rehabilitation and Outcomes Assessment: A Survey of Pediatric Critical Care Physicians
Treble-Barna A, Beers SR, Houtrow AJ, Ortiz-Aguayo R, Valenta C, Stanger M, Chrisman C, Orringer M, Smith CM, Pollon D, Duffett M, Choong K, Watson RS, Kochanek PM, Fink EL
Pediatric Critical Care Medicine
2019 Jun 

Influence of Dopamine-related Genes on Neurobehavioral Recovery After Traumatic Brain Injury During Early Childhood
Treble-Barna A, Wade SL, Martin LJ, Pilipenko V, Yeates KO, Taylor HG, & Kurowski BG
Journal of Neurotrauma
2017 Jun 1 

Long-term Neuropsychological Profiles and Their Role as Mediators of Adaptive Functioning Following Traumatic Brain Injury in Early Childhood
Treble-Barna A, Zang H, Zhang N, Taylor HG, Yeates KO, Wade SL
Journal of Neurotrauma
2017 Jan 15

Observed Parenting Behaviors as Time-varying Moderators of Early Traumatic Brain Injury on Child Behavior Problems
Treble-Barna A, Zang H, Zhang N, Taylor HG, Stancin T, Yeates KO, Wade SL
Developmental Psychology
2016 Nov

Cognitive Intervention for Attention and Executive Function Impairments in Children with Traumatic Brain Injury: A Pilot Study
Treble-Barna A, Sohlberg M, Harn B, Wade SL
Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation
2016 Nov/Dec 

Functional Significance of Atypical Cortical Organization in Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele: Relations of Cortical Thickness and Gyrification With IQ and Fine Motor Dexterity
Treble A, Juranek J, Stuebing KK, Dennis M. Fletcher JM
Cerebral Cortex
2013 Oct

Working Memory and Corpus Callosum Microstructural Integrity Following Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury: A Diffusion Tensor Tractography Study
Treble A, Hasan KM, Iftikhar A, Stuebing KK, Kramer LA, Cox CS, Swank PR, Ewing-Cobbs L
Journal of Neurotrauma
2013 Oct 1

Opportunities to Join

We’d Like to Hear From You!

The Treble-Barna Lab is looking for talented graduate students (no funding currently available; contribution to research projects on voluntary basis only) and undergraduate research assistants. Please contact Dr. Treble-Barna via email if you are interested.

Post-doctoral Research Fellow

The Treble-Barna Lab is recruiting a post-doctoral research fellow to join the lab in summer or fall 2022. Interested individuals are invited to send a CV and statement of interest to amery.treble-barna@pitt.edu.