In my lab we focus on research issues relating to clinical neuropsychology. We have two broad lines of research that we have pursued here. One pertains to neuropsychological aspects of multiple sclerosis (MS), with special emphasis on contributors to depression, cognitive functioning, fatigue, and general quality of life in this common neurological disorder. In recent years we have also focused on the possible contribution of secondary factors like slow speech and poor visual acuity to neuropsychological test performance in these patients. Additionally, we recently completed a study, funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) that explores structural and functional neuroimaging indices associated with cognitive and emotional functioning in MS. Furthermore, we have recently begun to explore genetic factors that may predict cognitive and emotional outcomes in MS. Finally, we recently received funding from the NMSS for a multi-site clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of an online cognitive behavioral therapy module for treating depression in MS and will be implementing this study in the coming year.
A second line of research in our lab explores the consequences of sports-related concussion. My students and I run the sports concussion program for Penn State, something that involves neuropsychological testing of many of the athletes at Penn State involved in contact sports. We are especially interested in predictors of outcome following concussion, including motivation at baseline, cognitive variability, premorbid personality characteristics, and cognitive reserve. We have also recently begun to explore genetic factors that predict concussion outcome and have published papers relating to the ApOE E4 allele as a risk factor for adverse outcomes following sports concussion.
Both of these research programs provide students with the opportunity to develop their clinical skills and gain experience with two very different clinical populations, while at the same time exploring research questions that have both theoretical and applied implications.