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Designing Computer-Mediated Communication Supports

to Improve Social Participation for Adults with Traumatic Brain Injury


R01 NIH HD071089; 11/2019 – 10/2023



Lyn Turkstra and Bilge Mutlu


Social media and other computer-mediated communication (CMC) platforms have radically changed the way we work, live, and build and maintain our social lives. Today, there are more than three billion social media users worldwide, representing 42% of the world’s population. For individuals with disabilities, CMC has the potential to overcome existing barriers to social participation, particularly for individuals with motor or sensory limitations. However, current CMC social-media platforms are not designed with individuals with cognitive limitations in mind; thus, they do not address barriers to social participation for individuals with cognitive disabilities, including individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) who have impairments in memory, social perception, and social communication. Adults with moderate-severe TBI report being socially isolated, and while they do use social media for social interactions and to share experiences, they do so less frequently than their uninjured peers and report significant challenges with accessibility and usability. CMC has been linked to increased feelings of well-being and social connectedness and decreased loneliness, which in turn are linked with positive physical and psychological health. Reducing barriers to CMC platforms for survivors of TBI may improve social communication, participation, and overall health outcomes. The overarching aim of this project is to create evidence- and technology-based aids for CMC, specifically for social media use, and evaluate users’ perceptions of these aids. These data will be used to develop a subsequent clinical trial proposal that will test the effects of CMC technology aids on social participation in adults with TBI. In preparation for the clinical trial to test the effects of technology-aid use on social participation and health outcomes, we must first develop and test the technology, which we do here across three proposed aims: Aim 1: Develop software technology to support social media use by adults with TBI; Aim 2. Determine user perceptions and usage patterns of technology aids and patient characteristics to test in a future clinical trial; Aim 3. Develop a clinical trial proposal. Through the development, testing, and deployment of technology aids to support social-media use and the development of a clinical-trial proposal, this project lays the critical foundation for reducing barriers to social participation for individuals with TBI and improving social functioning and wellbeing. 

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