Dean’s message

Dean Michael G. Perri

Dean Michael G. Perri

In this issue of PHHP News we introduce you to the groundbreaking work of Dr. Glenn Smith, who joined the college last fall as the chair of the department of clinical and health psychology and the Elizabeth Faulk Endowed Professor. Dr. Smith spent 25 years at the Mayo Clinic developing diagnostic tools and interventions to help people with mild cognitive impairment maintain their cognitive function and independence as long as possible. For his contributions to the profession, Dr. Smith was recently selected to receive the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology’s highest honor, the Distinguished Neuropsychologist Award.

The field of neuropsychology explores the structure and function of the brain and its relationship to behavior and psychological processes. Neuropsychology has a rich history at the University of Florida. In 1964 Dr. Paul Satz, who is considered one of the founding fathers of neuropsychology, joined the faculty of the department of clinical and health psychology where he established UF’s first graduate course, research lab and clinical service in neuropsychology. Many UF graduate students, interns and postdoctoral researchers received training under Dr. Satz and they have gone on to become prominent leaders in neuropsychology themselves.

Today, the department is home to an outstanding group of faculty members who specialize in neuropsychology research and clinical practice: Dr. Russell Bauer, Dr. Dawn Bowers, Dr. Ronald Cohen, Dr. Duane Dede, Dr. Vonetta Dotson, Dr. Shelley Heaton, Dr. Michael Marsiske, Dr. William Perlstein, Dr. Catherine Price and Dr. Smith. Their work spans a range of conditions across the lifespan, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cognitive aging, depression, traumatic brain injury and movement disorders. They frequently collaborate with researchers throughout the UF Health Science Center, including neurologists, neuroimaging experts and rehabilitation specialists, and they take advantage of the resources offered by the Institute on Aging, the Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, and the McKnight Brain Institute, one of the nation’s most comprehensive and technologically advanced centers devoted to understanding how the brain works.

Here is a sampling of some of their projects:

Dr. Bauer’s work focuses on the evaluation of concussion management protocols and the examination of structure-function relationships involving memory dysfunction, sleep problems and neuropsychiatric symptoms after sports-related concussion and civilian and military traumatic brain injury. One of his graduate student mentees, Aliyah Snyder, founded Athlete Brain, a student-run organization that promotes concussion awareness and prevention, including free baseline concussion screenings for young athletes and a campus helmet safety campaign.

Dr. Bowers studies the neural mechanisms that underlie emotional and cognitive changes in older adults, including those who have neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease. She co-directs the new NIH-funded Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Training in Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration program that trains doctoral students to become independent researchers whose work will lead to new treatments for movement disorders.

Dr. Dotson’s research examines the neurobiology of late-life depression, including investigating whether particular symptoms of depression have distinct cognitive and brain correlates and if exercise improves memory-related brain functioning in older adults with depression.

Dr. Marsiske focuses on cognitive aging and strategies to preserve cognitive functions in older adults. He has served as a principal investigator on the ACTIVE study, which demonstrated that participants who received even a modest amount of mental exercises continued to experience improvements in reasoning and speed of processing abilities a decade after the training. Dr. Marsiske and Dr. Bowers have partnered with The Village, a Gainesville retirement community, to offer UF Health Vitality Mind. The program uses mindfulness meditation, computer training, exercise and video games, to maximize brain health in older adults.

In her research, Dr. Price uses sophisticated brain imaging techniques to establish cognitive profiles to predict the type of cognitive impairment a person with Parkinson’s may develop, which could help clinicians tailor treatment plans. She also uses neuropsychological techniques to help identify older adults who may be at risk of cognitive problems following surgery.

We look forward to bringing you continued updates on the scientific advancements made by this talented group.