Psychologists and Students Present at National Assn of Neuropsychology in NO

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The National Academy of Neuropsychology held its 38th Annual Conference in New Orleans at  the Sheraton Hotel, October 17-20, 2018. The theme of the conventional was “Becoming Agents of Change.”

Psychologists from the New Orleans area who presented at the conference included Dr. Kevin Bianchini who spoke on “Pain in the Medicolegal Context.

Dr. Lisa Settles and Dr. Margaret Hauck, along with colleague Dr. Mary Gleason, presented “Early Childhood Brain Development: A Clinical View of Exceptions to Typical Brain
Developmental Trajectories.”

Students presenting included Scott Roye, Alyssa De Vito, and Andrea Smith, all from Louisiana State University, and with co-author Matthew Calamia, PhD, Assistant Professor in Clinical
Psychology, Louisiana State University.

The National Academy of Neuropsychology (NAN) is a non-profit professional membership association for experts in the assessment and treatment of brain injuries and disorders. NAN members are at the forefront of cutting-edge research and rehabilitation in the field of brain behavior relationships.

For her presentation, Lisa D. Settles, PsyD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry & Pediatrics at Tulane University School of Medicine, Tulane Center for Autism and Related Disorders, reviewed the diagnostic criteria of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), basic neurobiological basis of ASD, specific symptoms of language impairment, social impairment, and RRBs and how the brain contributes to the deficits in youngsters.

Dr. Settles included reviews about issues of social communication delays and restricted, repetitive behaviors. She told the audience about how deficits in ASD are due to connections, activation, structures, and lack in these elements. She said there was difficulty studying young
children using imaging techniques that require stillness and following directions and noted that new information is forthcoming regularly and even weekly.

Margaret Hauck, PhD, neuropsychologist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Tulane University School of Medicine, spoke on “Normal Development,” including cortical development, and explained that different regions follow different patterns. She reviewed how asymmetry appears early on, and how in the third trimester, the cortex is starting to learn. She told the audience how the newborn brain is prepared to experience, and is also prepared by experience. She also included how the greatest plasticity is in early years. She covered memory, encoding, retention, retrieval, autobiographical memory, attention, executive functioning, social and emotional development and other factors.

Dr. Gleason covered the prevalence of adversity in early childhood, the clinical correlates of  adversity and trauma-exposure in very young children, factors related to the presentation of
psychopathology in early childhood, and clinical implications of psychopharmacologic treatments.

She summarized that early childhood development is impacted by adversity and protective  actors in the caregiving environment. Mechanisms of these impacts is complex and includes direct and indirect influences, she explained. Therapy is safest and best supported treatments, while medications may play a role but large gaps in knowledge limit use.

Kevin Bianchini PhD, ABPN, FACPN, presented ” Pain Psychology for neuropsychologists: An Update.” He is a board certified Neuropsychologist and Clinical Psychologist, and is with Jefferson Neurobehavioral Group.

In his presentation, Dr. Bianchini covered the clinical circumstances of pain psychological evaluations, including predicting response to procedures or rehabilitation, understanding difficult-to-explain outcomes, and identifying treatment approaches, including treatment of comorbidities.

He noted that pain-related complaints are extremely common in the general population and  that the presence of pain influences recovery in neuropsychological conditions. He covered
psychosocial factors that influence recovery.

Dr. Bianchini also reviewed how psychometric testing is a valuable component of a consultation to assist the physician in making a more effective treatment plan and that it is useful in the assessment of mental conditions, pain conditions, cognitive functioning, treatment planning, vocational planning & evaluation of treatment effectiveness.

Psychosocial treatment is recommended as an important component in the total management of the patient with chronic pain, he told attendees, and treatments should be implemented as soon as the problem is identified, he explained. Psychosocial treatment may enhance the patient’s ability to participate in pain treatment rehabilitation, manage stress, and increase their problem-solving & self- management skills.

He described the scope of the problem and that pain complaints result in millions of
physician office visits per year and as many as 150 million lost work days. He noted that
the lifetime incidence of low back pain is 11 to 84% and lifetime incidence of neck pain
is 10 to 15%. Back pain is the most common reason for filing a workers compensation claim
and 30-50% of all Workers Compensation claims involve back pain. However, objective
physical findings do not fully explain the breadth and magnitude of disability seen in
many patients with back pain, he noted.

Scott Roye, MA, graduate student at Louisiana State University, presented a research poster, “Associations of Normative and Maladaptive Personality Traits with Self-Reported  Executive
Functioning.” Co-authors are Peter Castagna, MA, from Louisiana State University, and Matthew Calamia, PhD, Assistant Professor and also from Louisiana State University.

In his abstract, Rove noted, “Executive functioning (EF) is a collection of higher order processes designed to facilitate goal-oriented performance. Although commonly studied using performance-based tasks, self-report measures are also useful in assessment given their association with functional impairment. The relationship between self- reports of personality and EF is limited by the use of global EF scores and primarily measures of normative, rather than maladaptive, traits.”

In his study, Roye sought to better understand the relationships between
individual, self-reported EF domains and personality traits among a non-clinical
sample of young adults. Findings replicate prior work emphasizing the relationship of
neuroticism and conscientious/disinhibition to self-reported executive functioning and
extend previous research, Rove wrote.

Alyssa De Vito, MA, also a graduate student at Louisiana State University, presented “Apathy Symptom Severity and Progression Across Empirically-Derived Mild Cognitive Impairment Subtypes.” Her co-author is Matthew Calamia, PhD, Louisiana State University. De Vito examined apathy severity at baseline and its progression over time in empirically derived mild cognitive impairment (MCI) subtypes, she noted.

Using clinical and neuropsychological criteria, amnestic MCI individuals were identified as having more severe apathy symptoms than cognitively normal participants at baseline. However, only clinical criteria identified dysexecutive individuals as having more severe apathy symptoms compared to cognitively normal controls at baseline.

The study demonstrates that apathy severity and progression differ across MCI subtypes. Identification of individuals who may be at risk of developing more severe symptoms is important given apathy’s association with functional impairment, even after controlling for cognitive impairment.

Andrea Smith, an undergraduate senior at Louisiana State University, presented, “White Noise Effects on Cognitive Performance in Those with ADHD: The Moderating Role of Internalizing
Symptoms.” Co-authors are Scott Roye, MA, and Dr. Calamia.

According to her abstract, prior research suggests that white noise played concurrently with a cognitive task may facilitate cognitive performance in those with ADHD, for example, by reduced need to seek out other stimulation. However, much of this work has been done only with children. Additionally, studies of white noise and ADHD have not examined the role of comorbid depressive and anxiety symptoms, which are known to effect cognitive performance in those with ADHD. Smith aimed to address this gap in the literature.

The results indicate that the effects of white noise may uniquely influence cognition among individuals with ADHD, depending upon the presence and severity of their internalizing symptoms, Smith’s review said.

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