University of Southern California
Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Active Research Programs

Active Research

The rigorous, interdisciplinary research programs at the USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy have cumulatively received over $14 million of federal funding. Even more importantly, our research agenda pursues—and generates—knowledge with relevant outcomes for real-world interventions that improve human health, quality of life, and well-being.

The Division’s portfolio includes research grants, training grants, and contracts. Projects currently within their active funding period are below.

Research Grants

Investigation of the Neural Mechanisms of Sensorimotor Integration

Principal Investigator: Stefanie BodisonCTSI_logo
Funding Source: Keck School of Medicine of USC-Southern California Clinical Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI) for KL2 Mentoring Research Career Development Award
Project Period: 07/01/13 – 06/30/15
Award Number: NIH/NCRR/NCATS #KL2TR00031
Total Award: $128,152
Mentors: Elizabeth Sowell, PhD; Terence D. Sanger, MD, PhD; Florence Clark, PhD, OTR/L; and Stewart Mostofsky, MD
Goal: Using structural MRI, diffusion tensor imaging, and fMRI techniques, this study seeks to investigate the structural and functional connectivity of sensorimotor integration in typically developing children and those with autism spectrum disorder, aged 6-8 years.

Modulating Motor Behavior by Action Observation and Imitation: Implications for Stroke Rehabilitation

Principal Investigator: Lisa Aziz-ZadehDana_logo
Funding Source: The Dana Foundation
Project Period: 01/01/12 – 12/31/14
Award Number: CADF/AZIZ-ZADEH/2012
Total Award: $200,000
Collaborators: Carolee Winstein, Hanna Damasio, and Nerses Sanossian
Goal: Investigators will use MRI and fMRI imaging to examine whether, and how best, the mirror neuron system can be activated following stroke to optimally tailor stroke rehabilitation for individual patients.

Sensory Adapted Dental Environments to Enhance Oral Care for Children with Autism

Principal Investigator: Sharon CermakNIDCR_logo
Funding Source: National Institute of
Dental and Craniofacial Research
Project Period: 09/15/11 – 08/31/14
Award Number: 1 R34 DE022263-01
Total Award: $531,376
USC: Jose Polido, Marian Williams, Michael Dawson, Christianne Lane
USC: Joel Hay
Beit Issie Shapiro, Israel: Michele Shapiro
Goal: The goal of this project is to collect information that will support a later clinical trial on the effectiveness of a specially adapted dental environment for children, including children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and typically developing children, who have difficulty tolerating oral care in the dental clinic.

Community Discharge After Hip Fracture

K12 Scholar: Natalie Leland NICHD_logo_small
Funding Source: National Institutes of Health, NICHD/NINDS Rehabilitation Research Career Development Program
Project Period: 09/11/11 – 08/31/14
Award Number: HD055929 (PI: K. Ottenbacher)
Total Award: $75,000 NINDS logo
Faculty Mentor: Florence Clark
Abstract: Among community-dwelling older adults who experience an acute hospitalization and are discharged to post-acute care, the primary rehabilitation goal is community discharge. Yet, little is known about getting post-acute care Medicare beneficiaries back to the community and have them remain there. Re-hospitalization often limits the time spent at home. The goal of this K12 mentored research project is to further develop quantitative methodological skills to examine the national and temporal variation in the patient outcome of getting back to the community and remaining there among post-acute care Medicare patients who have experienced their first hip fracture.

Beating the Odds: Facilitating Lifestyle Change in Urban Latino Young Adults with Diabetes

Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Pyatak NCRR_logo
Funding Source: National Institutes of Health/National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)/Keck School of Medicine of USC-Southern California Clinical Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI) for KL2 CTSI_logo
Mentoring Research Career Development Award/
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust
Project Period: 08/16/11 – 06/30/14
Award Number: KL2RR031991
Total Award: $146,279
Faculty Mentor: Florence ClarkHelmsley_logo
Goal: The primary contributions of the proposed project
are to develop and validate an innovative context-sensitive, community-based manualized lifestyle intervention for diabetes management, and conduct a pilot study to analyze the intervention’s potential to improve health and quality of life
outcomes among urban, low socioeconomic status Latino young adults with diabetes.

Lifestyle Redesign® for Pressure Ulcer Prevention in Spinal Cord Injury

Principal Investigator: Florence Clark NIH_logo_small
Funding Source: National Institutes of Health
Project Period: 09/01/08 – 07/31/14
Award Number: 1 R01 HD056267-01A1
Total Award: $2,820,242
USC: Stan Azen, Erna Blanche, Joel Hay, Jennifer Unger
Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Hospital: Salah Rubayi, Michael Scott
Goal: The long-term objective of this project is to identify an intervention option that can enhance the health and life quality of the population of adults with SCI while simultaneously diminishing the heavy healthcare burden that results from the problem of SCI-related pressure ulcers.

The Mirror Neuron System (MNS) and Action Observation after Stroke Affecting Cortical Motor Regions

Principal Investigator: Lisa Aziz-Zadeh NICHD_logo_small
Funding Source: NIH/National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development
Project Period: 07/01/11 – 06/30/14
Award Number: 1 R03 HD067475-01A1
Total Award: $162,000
Collaborators: Carolee Winstein and Nerses Sanossian
Goal: By studying how the brain perceives actions after stroke, this study aims to better understand how to use methods that engage the mirror neuron system for stroke rehabilitation, in order to better understand the role of the MNS and the mentalizing system for action perception, imitation, and social cognition.

The Mirror Neuron System (MNS): A Neural Substrate for Methods in Stroke Rehabilitation

Principal Investigator: Lisa Aziz-Zadeh AHA
Funding Source: American Heart Association
Project Period: 07/01/10 – 06/30/14
Award Number: 10SDG3510062
Total Award: $231,000
Collaborators: Carolee Winstein
Goal: This study aims to better understand how individuals with stroke process actions by exploring how actions are processed in the brain after an individual experiences a stroke that causes motor weakness. The results of this study can be used to develop better rehabilitation methods for motor recovery after stroke.

Training Grants

TREET: Training in Rehabilitation Efficacy and Effectiveness Trials

Project Director: Florence Clark OER
Funding Source: NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA); National Institute of Child Health and Human Development - National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research
Project Period: 05/1/11 – 04/30/16
Award Number: 1T32 HD064578-01A1 MRRIN_logo
Total Award: $1,068,942
Co-Directors: James Gordon, Stanley Azen
Goal: Faculty members from three program branches (occupational therapy, physical therapy, and advanced technology) oversee a coordinated training experience for nine doctoral-level scholars, each over a two-year period, that includes individualized mentorship, core coursework, participation in training seminars, immersion in externally funded projects, and writing of grant proposals and research publications. Anticipated trainee outcomes include an increased capacity to independently conduct randomized controlled trials and an increase in the quantity and rigor of rehabilitation science publications.


Lifestyle Redesign® for Pressure Ulcer Prevention in Rural Veterans with SCI

Project Director: Florence ClarkVA_logo
Funding Source: Intergovernmental Personnel Act — VA Long Beach Health Care System (Long Beach, California)
Project Period: 08/16/12 – 5/31/14
Award Number: VALBHS/IPA/2012
Total Award: $180,511
Collaborators: Erna Blanche, Michael Carlson, and Brent Liu (Viterbi School of Engineering)
Abstract: The Long Beach VA Health Care System is collaborating with the USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy on a demonstration project to develop a sustainable Lifestyle Redesign® program tailored for pressure ulcer prevention in rural veterans with spinal cord injuries to be delivered via telehealth systems. USC collaborators will first conduct a needs assessment in which rural veterans, through a series of interviews, will provide input that will guide researchers in customizing the intervention to address the specific lifestyle needs and circumstances that present challenges to pressure ulcer prevention. After USC researchers develop a tailored manual, they will train and supervise VA occupational therapists in delivering the intervention and collect treatment outcome data.

MetaNet: A Multilingual Metaphor Extraction, Representation, and Validation System

Project Director: Lisa Aziz-ZadehISCI_logo
Funding Source: International Computer Science Institute, Berkeley, CA (S. Narayanan, PI)
Project Period: 1/1/12 – 12/31/17
Award Number: 804USC
Total Award: $293,273
Abstract: The scope of the USC-led experiment is to conduct a fMRI study on metaphorical language processing and emotion processing to approximately 20 subjects.

Development of Teaching Material in Support of SIPT

Project Director: Florence ClarkWPS_logo
Funding Source: Western Psychological Services
Project Period: 06/01/98 – 6/30/14
Awarded to Date: $1,157,396
Abstract: Under this contract, the USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy provides updates to the teaching materials used in Western Psychological Services’ continuing education program and provides administrative services as related to the program.

U.S. News Ranks USC #1 Program in the Nation

USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
1540 Alcazar Street, CHP 133
Los Angeles, CA 90089-9003
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Phone: (323) 442-2850 · Toll free: (866) 385-4250
Fax: (323) 442-1540
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The USC entry-level master's degree program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® (ACOTE). ACOTE c/o Accreditation Department, American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.®, 4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814-3449, (301) 652-6611 x2914,

Professional program graduates are eligible to apply for certification by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, Inc.®



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