Updated March 25 at 6:25am

URI researchers receive pilot project funding to target environmental, behavioral health issues

Pilot projects led by two University of Rhode Island researchers have each been awarded federal grant funding through Advance Clinical and Translational Research, a statewide program that supports scientific research that will improve the health of Rhode Islanders.

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URI researchers receive pilot project funding to target environmental, behavioral health issues

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SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Pilot projects led by two University of Rhode Island researchers have each been awarded federal grant funding through Advance Clinical and Translational Research, a statewide program that supports scientific research that will improve the health of Rhode Islanders.

Marcella Thompson, assistant professor in the College of Nursing/Academic Health Collaborative, and Kunal Mankodiya, assistant professor in the College of Engineering, in addition to collaborating researchers at Brown University and Bradley Hospital, will each receive a one-year federal grant of $75,000.

Thompson is collaborating with Dinalyn Spears of the Narragansett Indian Tribe, and Brown University’s Elizabeth Hoover, Gregory Wellenius and Alison Field, on the project “Community-Engaged Tribal Research to Assess Dietary Exposures to Mercury and PCBs.” The project will allow trained tribal members to examine the community’s exposure to PCBs and mercury through locally-sourced fish, collecting data to educate the tribe on the benefits and risks of their diet.

“This is just one phase of our community-engaged research with the tribe on a complex environmental health issue,” Thompson said of the project.

Mankodiya is working with Dr. Kerri Kim and Dr. Daniel Dickstein of Bradley Hospital/Brown University on the project, “Brain/Behavior Mechanisms in Emotional Dysregulation in Adolescents with Mood and Anxiety Disorders.” Their research examines the effects of dialectical behavior therapy in teenage girls with significant mood disorders, including chronic suicidal thoughts and behavior. The researchers are using fMRIs to examine changes in blood flow in the brain associated with the treatment, in addition to monitoring participants’ daily bodily responses to emotional stimuli with smart watches

“We can see when there are episodes that indicate they are experiencing anxiety or mood swings, determine the day of the week, the time of day, what they are doing and the number of incidents,” Mankodiya said. “This is very exciting for me. I like to solve problems, but not in the lab, in real life.”

The Advance-CTR grants are part of a statewide program funded by the National Institute of General Medical Science/National Institutes of Health to support clinical and translational researchers in the state with funding, resources and services and professional development to improve the health of Rhode Islanders.

“We were delighted that URI faculty submitted many outstanding applications for the Pilot Projects awards,” said Dr. Sharon Rounds, director of the pilot program at Advance-CTR, based at Brown University and comprising an equal partnership of Brown, URI, Lifespan, Care New England, the Providence VA Medical Center, and the Rhode Island Quality Institute. “The two URI investigators who submitted the funded applications do very interesting and impactful research in collaboration with other Advance-CTR partners.”

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