PPRT- Past Projects

2022-2023 PPRT Projects

Gap Pre-pulse Inhibition of the Acoustic Startle Reflex for Tinnitus Detection: Wayne State University- Zakaria Enayati

Research Trainee: Zakaria Enayati, PhD Student, Department of Communication Science and Disorders, Wayne State University

Principal Investigator: Avril Holt, Associate Professor, School of Medicine, Wayne State University

Noise is an occupational hazard that is often underestimated by workers. Noisy environments significantly
contribute to hearing and balance related problems, such as hearing loss, tinnitus, hyperacusis, and falls.
Subjective tinnitus affects approximately 15% of the United States population with similar prevalence in
Europe, Asia, and Africa. This condition contributes to many mental health disorders and creates a financial
burden for many experiencing this un-stoppable ringing. Unfortunately, there is not cure for tinnitus. There are
no objective tests to detect tinnitus in humans. Thus, developing an objective, reliable test would substantially
help with the diagnosis and treatment of tinnitus. In animal models of tinnitus, inhibition of the acoustic start le
reflex has been used to detect tinnitus but this test remains controversial in pre-clinical and clinical studies.
Therefore, the proposed studies have been designed to test and compare several parameters of the acoustic
startle reflex in participants with and without tinnitus. The current study aims to assess the ability of normal –
hearing controls and those with tinnitus to inhibit their acoustic startle reflex and determine the correlation of
results with self-reported characteristics of tinnitus.

We hypothesize that, in contrast to normal-hearing participants, tinnitus sufferers will demonstrate a reduced
ability to inhibit their startle response. However, over time, those with tinnitus will maintain the same level of
inhibition, while normal-hearing participants will demonstrate less inhibition.

Total Remote Worker Health: Developing a Remote Assessment Instrument of Physical, Emotional, and Musculoskeletal Health for Individuals who Work From Home: University of Michigan- Jessica Francis

Research Trainee: Jessica Francis, Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan

Research Trainee: Yifan Li, Doctoral Candidate, Industrial & Operations Engineering, University of Michigan

Principal Investigator: Thomas Armstrong, Professor, Industrial & Operations Engineering, University of Michigan

Background: At this point in history, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, many traditional work settings have now been replaced with new modalities – namely remote work and hybrid work (where individuals can split time between work from home and in person work). In a traditional in-person work modality, the worker is in a more controlled environment, worker behaviors can be observed, and worker tools can often be standardized (for example having the same office chairs for all workers). In a remote or hybrid work environment, the spatial and temporal relationships of the worker become less well-defined, and various aspects of home-life and work-life may start to blend together. Thus, it is important to understand the key benefits and challenges of remote work in relation to the overall health of remote and hybrid workers. Significance: Currently no tools or instruments focus on the total health of workers engaged in primarily remote work or hybrid work. We aim to introduce a tool that can quantify both mental and physical health through an instrument that can be self-administered remotely. Specific Aims: There are three key aims to our proposal 1) Develop a thematic understanding of key barriers and benefits of remote and hybrid work on the overall health of workers; 2) determine applicability and effectiveness of traditional ergonomic assessment tools for assessing remote and hybrid worker fatigue to prevent potential work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs); and 3) develop and deploy a pilot instrument that assess total remote and hybrid worker well-being and health. Broader Impact: This is a once-in-a-century chance to adopt a paradigm shift of work that can transformatively maximize benefits and minimize problems associated with remote work for both employers and workers. In this planning grant, therefore, we focus on remote work. The developed tool will help inform policy makers and employers of a worker’s mental and physical well-being. In addition, This research will inform policies and recommendations for remote work in the future, as well as evolving hybrid models of work.

Use of Community-based Support Services Among Black Family Dementia Caregivers: University of Michigan- Florence Johnson

Research Trainee & Principal Investigator: Florence Johnson, Ph.D Student, School of Nursing, University of Michigan

Additional Key Personnel: Sheria G. Robinson-Lane, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, University of Michigan

Dementia family caregivers are becoming an increasingly important part of the caregiver community, assisting with one or more activities of daily life, such as bathing, dressing, toileting, and feeding the person. They also assist with multiple instrumental activities of daily living, such as managing finances, which are common in caregiving. Caregivers provide physical and emotional support to people living with dementia, communicate and organize healthcare, other relatives, and healthcare providers, maintain safety at home and elsewhere, and manage health issues. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 48% of family caregivers care for someone living with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias. 

Stress is widespread amongst family caregivers of persons with chronic health conditions. In particular, Black family caregivers of persons living with dementia, compared to their non-Hispanic White counterparts, spend some of the most prolonged caregiving hours and experience some of the highest stress levels. However, little is known about the stress management strategies used by Black dementia family caregivers (B.F.C.) or the support they receive. It is unknown how much support B.F.C.s receive to manage psychological and physical stress. The proposed project aims to determine how community-based support services affect Black F.C.G.s’ mental health and identify barriers and facilitators to caregivers’ use of community-based support services. 

This mixed-method study will use a national dataset of older adults and their caregivers (N.H.A.T.S. and N.S.O.C.) to examine the relationships between Black dementia family caregiver stress, support services use, and health. Further, qualitative interviews with Black dementia family caregivers will examine caregiver experiences in obtaining training and support. Results will inform the development of future interventions that will improve care delivery and health outcomes for both F.C.G.s and persons with A.D.R.D. 

Support for older workers with mobility limitations through indoor work environment interventions: University of Michigan- Kamolnat Tabattanon

Research Trainee: Kamolnat Tabattanon, Ph.D Student, Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering, Center for Ergonomics, University of Michigan

Principal Investigator: Bernard J. Martin, Associate Professor, Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering, Center for Ergonomics, University of Michigan

The population and proportion of older adults (age 65+ years) is increasing in the US. Alongside this trend, Americans are increasingly working into older age, with 20% of older adults either working or looking for work[30]. To safely accommodate the projected rise in older workers, it is critical to account for the intersection of old age and mobility disability, as mobility disability incidence is increasing among aging adults[1]. Manual wheelchair support for balance and mobility will be on the rise, though workers who transition to manual wheelchair use will be able to retain independence in movement and upper extremity tasks provided the environment-task demands are designed for inclusion[22, 24]. By addressing this subgroup of older adults with later-in-life incidence of disability, work environment evaluations can become more sustainably inclusive. Current work environments are lacking in this regard, as 22% of older adults with disabilities who ceased seeking work stopped due to discouragement, including from perceived discrimination for age and/or disability[5]. Of further concern, recent studies suggest that disability populations are prone to underreporting their own difficulties when evaluating designs with traditional subjective measures [18, 34]. Yet the use of objective measures (e.g., biomechanics, task times) can be costly during design development. Better alignment between subjective ratings and objective performance can (1) result in designs that promote self-efficacy and remove psychosocial barriers; and (2) support future environment-task design processes towards broader inclusion. 

Therefore, we will investigate mobility performance between those with earlier-in-life (EL) and later-in-life (LL) incidence of manual wheelchair usage. Here, performance in an independent path following task is divided into assumed performance (how participants expect to perform), perceived performance (how participants think they performed), and effective performance (how objective measures quantify their completed performance). By comparing these categories, we will investigate internal representation of motor actions and test differences between groups. This will inform ways to support mobility through environmental indications as well as ways to supplement potentially biased subjective estimations in environmental evaluations. It is postulated that representation of the world as a function of assumed mobility impairment/deficiency is a factor in self-limiting mobility. 

PPRT Director:

Adam M. Finkel, Sc. D., CIH
Clinical Professor of Environmental Health Sciences