The National Academy of Neuropsychology has named Dr. Matthew Calamia as the 2021 recipient of their prestigious Early Career Award. Dr. Calamia is Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Psychological Services Center at Louisiana State University (LSU), Baton Rouge campus. He is also an adjunct faculty member at the Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center and has been affiliated with the Jefferson Neurobehavioral Group in New Orleans.
Dr. Calamia has authored over 70 peer-reviewed publications and has completed projects such as the Keller-Lamar Health Foundation Validation of a Novel Web-Based Assessment of Cognitive and Emotional Functioning, as well as the Pennington Biomedical Center Nutrition and Obesity Research Center Apathy, Unintentional Weight Loss, and Cognitive Decline in Late Life, with coinvestigators, Drs. Owen Carmichael and Corby Martin. Dr. Calamia is a licensed psychologist with a specialty designation in clinical neuropsychology. He provides direct patient care as well as training and supervising graduate students with the neuropsychology emphasis.
The National Academy of Neuropsychology is the professional association for experts in the assessment and treatment of brain injuries and disorders, and its members are at the forefront of cutting-edge research and rehabilitation in the field of brain behavior relationships.
“I was excited,” Dr. Calamia said about the honor. “I worked in a neuropsychology lab at LSU as an undergraduate. When that professor retired, I was lucky enough to be able to come back home and start my own lab. Over the years, I’ve managed to recruit an amazing group of graduate student mentees into my lab,” he said. “The work coming out of my lab is all a shared effort and so this award is really theirs as much as it is mine. It’s nice to be recognized and I hope this little boost in visibility makes future graduate applicants consider LSU.”
Dr. Calamia’s contributions include several areas. In partnership with the Institute for Dementia Research & Prevention at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, he and his team have explored predictors of cognitive change in cognitively healthy older adults and individuals with mild cognitive impairment. He also collaborates with the Adult Development and Aging Laboratory led by Dr. Katie Cherry at LSU.
Some of Dr. Calamia’s most innovative applications and research efforts involve technology. He and his team are working on creating and validating computerized tools for use within a variety of clinical populations. Currently they are looking at the effectiveness of incorporating a nonimmersive virtual reality paradigm into functional rehabilitation for older adults with moderate cognitive impairment.
Dr. Calamia and his team are piloting virtual reality as a quality of life intervention for older adults in assisted living facilities.
“This month we have been going each week to Francois Bend Senior Living in Gonzales to have residents there participate in enjoyable activities using VR headsets,” he said.
“There is one resident there who is not from this area originally who cried from being able to go and ‘visit’ her hometown––in what is basically VR Google Maps––and each week she ‘visits other places she has lived and traveled. This is such a neat technology for reminiscence and also escape given how people have been limited in that due to the pandemic. We are planning to expand to other senior living communities,” he said.
“We are using standard commercial VR headsets [e.g., Oculus Quest 2, HTC Vive] to give residents in these communities a chance to immerse themselves in a virtual reality experience based on their interest. Right now we are just piloting to look at changes in mood and what they like/don’t like about the experiences but we hope to build on this to look at other outcomes. We are also planning to expand this work into other senior living communities,” he said.
Dr. Calamia’s projects also look at using specific memory scores on list-learning tasks to predict future cognitive decline. His team is examining the impact of natural disaster on health, well- being, and cognition in adults and older adults.
Among other goals, Dr. Calamia and his group are examining the benefit of a brief memory screening program to community dwelling older adults.
“I have conducted studies examining predictors of cognition functioning and decline in older adults,” he explained. “These studies have sought to carefully unpack associations by moving beyond global measures of cognition or other variables and using multiple measures as well as statistical techniques such as structural equation modeling to address gaps in prior research.”
Along with co-authors, Calamia has published numerous articles including, “Serial Position Effects on List Learning Tasks in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease,” in Neuropsychology, and “Social factors that predict cognitive decline in older African American adults,” in International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Dr. Calamia is also strongly involved in the study of the psychometrics for neuropsychological tests. Some of this research involves using archival clinical data from the Psychological Services Center and Jefferson Neurobehavioral Group and data collection at the Baton Rouge Clinic.
Current projects in this area include examining associations between measures of noncredible performance and self-report in clinical and forensic settings. He and his team are also examining practice effects on neuropsychological tests of attention, the validity of existing neuropsychological measures in diverse clinical samples, comparing the predictive validity of multiple measures of everyday function in older adults with and without cognitive impairment, and examining psychometric properties of self-report measures across the lifespan.
“A major emphasis of my research,” he said, “has been on examining the validity of psychological or neuropsychological measures including the validity of measures in terms of their hypothesized brain-behavior relationships, examining the validity of new scores derived from existing measures or new measures being used in the field, and examining the degree to which different measures of related constructs yield different associations with cognitive functioning,” he said.
He and his team members have authored, “The Incremental Validity of Primacy as a Predictor of Everyday Functioning,” which is in press at Neuropsychology. “Psychometric Properties of the Expanded Version of the Inventory of Depression and Anxiety Symptoms (IDAS-II) in a Sample of Older Adults,” is another example of his team’s contribution, this one for Aging & Mental Health. Advance Online Publication.
Dr. Calamia has conducted meta-analyses on practice effects and test-reliability for a number of popular neuropsychological measures. “Both of these projects involved the integration of a large amount of published literature. The practice effects publication included nearly 1600 individual effect sizes,” Dr. Calamia explained.
Findings were published in a prestigious journal read by neuropsychological researchers and clinicians, The Clinical Neuropsychologist, and designated for CE credit. The practice effect publication has been cited 334 times since being published.
Other examples of his work include, “Test-Retest Reliability and Practice Effects of the Virtual Environment Grocery Store (VEGS),” in Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology; “Practical Considerations for Evaluating Reliability in Ambulatory Assessment Studies,” in Psychological Assessment, and “The Robust Reliability of Neuropsychological Measures: Meta- Analyses of Test-Retest Correlations,” in The Clinical Neuropsychologist.
Dr. Calamia and his team are also conducting studies examining ethnic and racial disparities in cognitive aging. Collaborators in this area include Dr. Robert Newton at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Current projects include examining racial differences in the association between trauma symptoms and their impact on cognitive and everyday function. They are also evaluating the utility of a novel cognitive screening measure in a diverse sample of older adults and minority representation in neuropsychological research.
Dr. Calamia has led or been involved in neuroimaging studies using either the lesion method or functional magnetic resonance imaging to study brain-behavior relationships in patient populations. This research has focused on clinical populations with the aim of improving understanding of the neural correlates of emotional and cognitive functioning.
“Examining the Neural Correlates of Psychopathology Using a Lesion-Based Approach,” in Neuropsychologia, is an example.
Throughout the variety of his work, Dr. Calamia is committed to issues around diversity within neuropsychology. He participates in the Society for Black Neuropsychology mentorship program and is on the executive board of the recently formed Queer Neuropsychological Society. He has recruited graduate students from diverse backgrounds into his lab. One of his students led a recent lab publication in the special issue on “Black Lives Matter to Clinical Neuropsychologists” in The Clinical Neuropsychologist focused on reporting practices and representation in neuropsychology studies.