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Barry S. Willer, PhD

Professor, Director of Research


PhD, Psychology, York University (1975)
BA, Psychology, York University, Honors BA (1971)

Research Summary

My research interests include all aspects of brain function although I generally look at issues that involve brain dysfunction. Traumatic brain injury including mild TBI (concussion) fascinate me. My research career has centered on the treatment of individuals living with the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI). This has included research on family coping strategies and rehabilitation outcomes. One of my current research interests is focused on mild TBI. I am the director of research for the University concussion clinic. We have been evaluating the impact of concussion on the physiology of the patient and looking for treatments that help to ameliorate the long-term effects. We have recently evaluated the use of the Balke treadmill test to evaluate readiness to return to play. We found this procedure to be reliable and safe and extremely useful in differential diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome. We have also just completed a fMRI pilot study of individuals with PCS and found that as patients improved in their symptoms and physiologic response to treatment, that their brains were more efficient metabolically. They used less energy to accomplish the same task and the foci of activity were more consistent with the demands of the task. We also found that subjects that followed an exercise regime recovered quicker and had brain function more closely aligned with the normal controls.

My second research focus relates to emotion recognition, emotion expression and emotion regulation in individuals with moderate to severe TBI. Approximately one third of individuals with moderate to severe TBI will have impaired abilities in emotion regulation. We have developed a computer-based treatment protocol that was found effective in a pilot study. This protocol is currently being evaluated in an RCT that is multi-site and multi-national.