Research Methods 

The impact of a stroke on a person’s life depends on many factors, such as the size and location of the stroke, the general health of the person, their living circumstances and activities prior to stroke, and the support available to them after the stroke. To assess all these factors and study how they interact, we use the following methods:

Behavioral Assessments

Behavioral assessments include a variety of tasks. Some of them are fun and easy, and some of them (so-called adaptive tests) are designed to bring everybody to their limit. For example, we might ask participants to put together a puzzle, define some words, find objects in a cluttered scene, draw something, or remember a list of things.

Man participates and completes behavioral assessment tasks.
Group go voer a variety of tasks the participant will complete.
Woman learns more about the behavioral tests she will complete as a part of the study.

Surveys and Interviews 

Surveys and interviews give us an idea what a participant’s life is like. Do they live in a place that requires them to get up stairs? Are there people/pets who depend on them? Do they have people who will help them if needed? Do they have easy access to health care? What are their favorite activities, and are they still able to do them? What has already been done, and what else could be done, to enable a return to these activities?

Man completes interview through conversation.
Woman engages in conversation with participant.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) allows us to take pictures of a person’s brain. This way, we can see where in the brain the stroke happened. Functional MRI (fMRI) lets us see which parts of the brain receive a boost in oxygen-rich blood when a person engages in a certain cognitive activity (e.g., solving a puzzle). This can change after a stroke, and the results will help us understand which parts of the braincan potentially take over when others have been damaged by stroke.

Diagram outline of person in MRI scanner and the scans produced. Above the image of the person, is titled "The MRI Scanner". The balck and white scans are titled "Anatomical Image" and the clack and white scans with color gradients is titled "Anatomical Image with functional MRI Results"

A note on our MRIs:

The MRIs we take do NOT require a contrast agent: No needles or radiation exposure involved.

The MRI scanner is a very strong magnet. Because of that, certain metallic or magnetically activated objects (e.g., pacemakers) are not safe to be near the MRI scanner. Some implants are MRI-safe. If you are interested in participating, please let us know about any implants or other objects you cannot remove from your body, so that we can check whether they are safe to go in the MRI scanner!

The MRI scanner is also a relatively tight space, and we can only get good images if you can lie still on your back for about 6 minutes at a time. Thus, if you think you may get frightened in a tight space, or if it would be uncomfortable for you to lie on your back without moving for several minutes, you may want to skip the MRI.

You can still participate without the MRI!


To learn how stroke impacts lives and how to help people reclaim their lives after stroke, we need the help of stroke survivors as well as people without stroke. If you are interested in participating in one of our studies, please contact us


This research is supported by NIH grants R01 HD105735, R21 HD095273, KL2 TR001432, and U54 HD090257, and by Georgetown University and MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital funds to the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery.