MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) visited the WVU Medicine Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) on Wednesday afternoon to learn about the work that they are doing.

During her visit, Capito spoke at length with RNI’s Executive Chair Dr. Ali Rezai about innovations to treat Alzheimer’s, dementia, chronic pain, and addiction. Dr. Rezai even told Capito about how RNI has had to adapt some of its resources and technologies to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

What they’re doing 15 here at RNI is just fantastic in terms of Alzheimer’s, drug addiction and now we’re seeing translating some of the technology under the leadership under Dr. Rezai has been able to pre detect COVID symptoms. And wouldn’t that be fantastic to detect before you’re showing symptoms so that you can then exhibit behaviors to protect people like wearing masks or self quarantining and all of those things? It’s a fascinating field and I’m glad that we’re at the cutting edge.

Sen. Capito

Rezai said using a combination of smart rings, watches, and a smartphone app a patient’s bodily signs are monitored for things like heart rate and how well they are sleeping. And then RNI’s technology can predict a person’s COVID infection three days before they are contagious.

He added that Capito has been very helpful with the advancements that have been made at RNI in the last few years.

The Senator is fantastic, she’s been so helpful for accelerating the pace of care in terms of the patients who are getting more access to broadband, as well as people with addiction problems and dementia, so the senator as been instrumental in helping the state, West Virginians. She has been very helpful in advancing neurosciences, helping with addiction study, and as well as looking into aging and Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Rezai

The next step both Capito and Rezai said they were looking to find more support for the work that is being done at RNI, to expand their research. Capito said as a member of the appropriations committee and the health subcommittee she has the ability to help RNI tremendously through appropriations to the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Aging.

Capito trying on a smart ring

Capito took a smart ring, which she said she intends to use to monitor her behavior. The rings are still in a trial phase and Rezai said the hope is to have it and other technologies designed by RNI as a model for what is possible in West Virginia.

“Traditionally a lot of these innovations in neuroscience have not happened in West Virginia,” Rezai said. “But now we have people from across the country and the world coming here, scientists, physicians, and others across the industry, government and foundation are coming here because they are seeing an opportunity for discovering innovation here in a rapid phase. We’re able to rapidly translate discoveries into impact for people here in West Virginia and beyond. And a lot of people are coming to West Virginia for care for surgeries, procedures.”