(ROCHESTER, Minnesota, August 2019) – The American Neuromuscular Foundation (ANF) recently announced development grant award recipient, Dr. Mathula Thangarajh.

The ANF is a nonprofit association dedicated to the advancement of neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, and electrodiagnostic research and medicine. Development grants are intended to recruit a generation of talented physicians and research scientists to help launch research into muscle and nerve disorders.

Dr. Thangarajh, Assistant Professor of Neurology at Virginia Commonwealth University, was chosen for her research proposal regarding “Cognition in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.” Dr. Thangarajh is dual board-certified in neurology with special qualifications in child neurology and neuromuscular medicine.

The disease being studied, more commonly known as DMD, is the most common type of muscular dystrophy, specifically in young children. According to Dr. Thangarajh’s proposal, it affects 1 in 3,500 boys. It can cause speech delay, learning difficulties, and attention-hyperactivity. “Of particular importance,” she wrote, “core cognitive skills are often weak in DMD. Some of the core cognitive skills are potential targets for intervention.”

“Cognition has been identified as the number one area of unmet need in NM diseases. It also mirrors my clinical experience that, despite parents reporting a high burden of cognitive problems in this condition, medical teams do not screen effectively for these problems,” Dr. Thangarajh said of her research. “My project will quantify the magnitude of cognitive problems in boys with DMD using a technology-based platform that will allow us to screen and triage for these problems efficiently in a busy clinic setting.”

The grant includes complimentary registration to the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM) Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida in October 2020 (along with a free membership during the grant year). AANEM is the nonprofit membership association that funds the ANF’s operations, allowing all ANF donations going toward funding research projects like the one proposed by Dr. Thangarajh.

An article titled “The NIH Toolbox for Cognitive Surveillance in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy” will be published in the scientific journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology as a result of this research.

The ANF is able to finance research projects through its $3 million endowment from the AANEM and generous individual donations, allowing the foundation to fund projects every year in perpetuity. Dr. Thangarajh’s development grant will fund this work for an entire year.

Among those endorsing her candidacy for the ANF Development Grant were Kristina K. Hardy, PhD and Associate Professor, Departments of Psychiatry, Behavioral Science and Pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine and Kathryn Wagner, MD, PhD and Director, Center for Genetic Muscle Disorders, Kennedy Krieger Institute and Professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In a co-written note, they said “Mathula Thangarajh is an outstanding physician-scientist and this proposal has the potential for high-impact in the neuromuscular scientific community, and is also directly relevant for personalized model of care for children with muscular dystrophy.”

This study aims to shed light on DMD and some of the more controversial aspects surrounding its diagnosis and effects on patients, including whether “cognitive challenges are static or progressive in nature.” The grant funds will help Dr. Thangarajh hire a research associate to assist with recruiting the 90 study participants needed, cover various supplies for data collection and study participant meals/parking, and additional travel expenses pertaining to the study. Dr. Thangarajh will present the findings of her research at the AANEM Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida in October 2020.  

For more information about the American Neuromuscular Foundation or to make a donation, visit www.neuromuscularfoundation.org.

About the American Neuromuscular Foundation

Based in Rochester, Minnesota, the American Neuromuscular Foundation (ANF) is a nonprofit association that provides funds to help develop the next generation of researchers to advance the science and practice of neuromuscular (NM) and electrodiagnostic (EDX) medicine. The ultimate goal in promoting and advancing NM and EDX scientific research and education is to improve the lives of patients with NM diseases.


Media Contact: Robbie Spencer 

AANEM Sr. Communications & Membership Senior Coordinator 


[email protected]