Cognition and Emotion after Stroke Project

The Cognition and Emotion after Stroke Project at the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery is directed by Dr. Anna Greenwald, PhD and includes researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center, Georgetown College, and MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital.


Anna Greenwald, PhD

PI, Georgetown University and MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital

More about Anna Greenwald, PhD

Katherine O’Connell

PhD Student, Georgetown University Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience

Abigail Marsh, PhD

Collaborator, Georgetown College

Alexander Dromerick, MD

Collaborator, Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital

More about Alexander Dromerick, MD

Peter Turkeltaub, MD, PhD

Collaborator, Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital

More about Peter Turkeltaub, MD, PhD


Hannah Brown

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ashley Carroll

Research Specialist

Juby Mathews

Recruitment Specialist

Serena Pu

Undergraduate Research Assistant


Our mission is to better understand how a stroke can change a person’s cognition and emotion, how these changes can impact their lives and the lives of those around them, and what might be done to reduce the negative impact and improve long-term outcomes.

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 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 some objects in a cluttered scene, draw something, or remember a list of things.

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?

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 brain can successfully “take over” when others have been damaged by stroke.

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.