Congratulations to the 2019 Dissertation Award Winners! 

Dissertation Award Winner: Catherine Sumida, M.A., Washington State University

Dissertation Title: Medication Adherence Functional Capacity in the Aging Population: Development of an Ecologically Validated Assessment

Brief Bio: I am currently a 4th year doctoral student at Washington State University’s Clinical Psychology Program with a focus in neuropsychology. My current research centers on examining the interactive relationship between cognition and compensatory strategy use and their effects on functional capacity in healthy aging and clinical populations. Specifically, I am interested in developing efficient and ecologically valid functional assessments for identifying individuals at risk of medication nonadherence due to cognitive difficulties.

Project Description: Older adults, the largest per capita consumers of prescription medications, report “forgetting” as the most frequent reason for unintentional nonadherence (Campbell et al., 2016; Quato, Wilder, Schumm, Gillet & Alexander, 2016). A quick and ecologically valid functional assessment for identifying individuals at risk for cognitive-related nonadherence is desirable; however, no such measure exists. The objective of this work is to address limitations preventing medication nonadherence performance-based measures from being used as clinical tools. Specifically, my work aims to examine the ecological validity of published and experimental medication performance-based measures, which assess medication knowledge, management, prospective memory and compensatory strategies. The final aim of this work is to consolidate these measures into a robust and predictive measurement for medication adherence. A brief and ecologically valid performance-based measure for assessing cognitive-related medication nonadherence risk in older adults is expected to have a downstream impact on interventions (e.g., reducing the financial, time and staff burden of collecting outcome data), and national health outcomes (e.g., reducing disability and mortality).

 
Catherine Sumida

Dissertation Award Winner: Alyssa De Vito, M.A., Louisiana State University

Dissertation Title: The Predictive Utility of Different Measures of Intraindividual Cognitive Variability as an Early Marker of Cognitive and Functional Decline in
Older Adulthood

Mentor/Dissertation Chair: Matthew Calamia, Ph.D.

Brief Bio: I am currently a 3rd year doctoral student in the neuropsychology track at Louisiana State University in the Department of Clinical Psychology. My current program of research primarily focuses on the identification of early warning signs of cognitive and functional decline in older adulthood. Specifically, I am interested in examining cognitive variability as a marker of early cognitive decline and better understanding which factors may impact variability (e.g., emotional and health conditions).

Project Description: Within-person cognitive variability (IIV) is an emerging marker of neurological disturbance, especially with respect to cognitive aging and decline. Despite promising early findings, the majority of the current research focuses on examining reaction time variability in individuals with dementia using cross-sectional approaches (Bielak et al., 2010). The current study aims to extend the current body of research by examining IIV in three cognitive domains (i.e., reaction time, executive functioning, and memory) as predictors of future cognitive and functional decline in cognitively healthy individuals and those with mild cognitive impairment using a longitudinal approach. Further, the current project aims to better understand factors that may impact rates of IIV (i.e., anxiety and depression). Findings from this project could provide further evidence that IIV can be used in diagnostic differentiation even at earlier stages of cognitive decline as well as to inform and enhance early identification methods to better serve the growing older adult population.

 
Alyssa De Vito

Dissertation Award Honorable MentionKelly A. Durbin, M.A., University of Southern California

Dissertation Title: Bottom-up and Top-down Interactions Between Emotion and Cognitive Control

Mentor/Dissertation Chair: Mara Mather, Ph.D.

Brief Bio: I am currently a 5th year graduate student in the clinical science program at the University of Southern California, specializing in neuropsychology and clinical aging. My research is broadly focused on understanding the effects of aging on cognitive and emotional processing using behavioral, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging techniques. Aside from this dissertation project, other research projects include understanding how aging influences optimism for the future, the nature of memory distortion and false memories, and emotion regulation.

Project Description: Recent evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s disease pathology begins in the locus coeruleus (LC) and may affect cognitive abilities even before clinically relevant symptoms begin to emerge (Braak & Del Tredici, 2012). The primary goal of this dissertation project is to examine how aging influences the structural and functional integrity of the LC. This project focuses on three distinct cognitive abilities dependent on the LC: 1) selective attention under varying degrees of cognitive load, 2) selective memory under increased cognitive load, and 3) select aspects of executive functioning. Results will deepen and broaden our understanding of how the LC modulates cognitive processing across the adult lifespan. These findings could provide insight into the type of cognitive impairments that emerge at the very earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Kelly A. Durbin
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