Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Can Video Games Fend Off Mental Decline?"

An informative, good read:

"Can Video Games Fend Off Mental Decline?"
by Clive Thompson
The New York Times Sunday Magazine
26 October 2014

read the full feature article here

Website for Akili, mentioned in the piece: Akili

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dementia: Dosh for Docs to Diagnose Dementia - Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb

Dumb, unethical, foolish, bad -

NHS dementia plan to give GPs cash for diagnoses criticised as ‘ethical travesty’
NHS condemned as ‘odious’ after introducing scheme whereby GPs given £55 each time they identify the disease in a patient
The Guardian
21 October 2014

Read the full article here

Brain Training: Scientific Commentary Statement

A Consensus on the Brain Training Industry from the Scientific Community
Posted on the Stanford Center on Longevity website
20 October 2014

Read the statement here

The authors and signatories may over-extend themselves in stating that they represent "the scientific community", but the points they raise are important to add to the conversation.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Brain Research Wins Nobel Prize

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded for locating brain’s GPS
John O’Keefe, May-Britt and Edvard Moser found how the brain creates a map to enable us to navigate our environment
The Guardian
06 October 2014

Read article here

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

Alzheimer Disease: "Perhaps the Nose Knows: UPSIT and Alzheimer Disease"

My new column for

Perhaps the Nose Knows: UPSIT and Alzheimer Disease
Anthony H. Risser, Ph.D.
12 September 2014

Perhaps the Nose Knows

Monday, September 01, 2014

"Modern and Contemporary American Poetry" (ModPo) Begins This Week - Join Us!

The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly--and true--
But let a Splinter swerve--
'Twere easier for You--

To put a Current back--
When Floods have slit the Hills--
And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves--
And trodden out the Mills--

-Emily Dickinson

In the world of MOOCs, few courses have shown the creativity of purpose and the dedicated following as has the course "Modern and Contemporary American Poetry" by Dr. Al Filreis of the University of Pennsylvania and Director of its wonderful Kelly Writers House.

Few courses, in real life or online, have such a dedicated teacher as Al.

The course, part of Al's regular teaching at Penn in its English Department, has been presented in MOOC form at this time of year in 2012 and in 2013 at Coursera. The ten-week course is back, opening later this week to over 30,000 students, myself included (third timer). Week after week, this likely remains the largest single collection of dedicated students reading and discussing the same poets and poems at any one time on the planet. And it remains intimate, lively, and interactive.

Although I am in the outlier minority in terms of my interpretation of Emily's poem (above) - seeing it as a tragic though wonderful poetic expression of brain damage in the time of Broca, whilst the common interpretation is one of freeing ones' self from the mundane - as a neuropsychologist, discussing it was one of the true highlights of the course for me.

It is a wonderful experience. Neuroscientists need poetry! Join us!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Upcoming Event: BPS Division of Neuropsychology Annual Conference (November 2014, London)

The British Psychological Society Division of Neuropsychology will hold its annual conference on the 28th of November in London. Here is the conference webpage: webpage

Prior to the conference, they will hold their first half-day pre-conference workshop. The workshop, about Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - will be held on the 27th.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Glasgow Coma Scale, 40 Years On

Dr. Graham Teasdale speaks with The Lancet about his Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) forty years after he and his colleagues introduced it. Available here at: Lancet podcast.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Alzheimer Disease: Cogniciti - Another Free-Access Online Dementia Screening Instrument

This instrument was developed by neuropsychologists and others at Baycrest in Toronto. Its website is located at: I am looking forward to examining it.

It looks like it was released last month. It has been getting some Canadian press this week.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Alzheimer Disease: Targacept's Failed TC-1734 Phase 2b Trial

From a Targacept press release:

Targacept Phase 2b Clinical Trial in Alzheimer’s Disease Does Not Show Superiority of TC-1734 Over Donepezil

July 14, 2014

"Winston-Salem, NC – Targacept, Inc. (NASDAQ: TRGT), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing novel NNR Therapeutics™, today announced top-line results from a Phase 2b monotherapy clinical trial of TC-1734 as a treatment for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. In the trial, TC-1734 did not meet the objective of showing superiority to donepezil, the marketed medication most often prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease, after 52 weeks of treatment. The trial did not include a placebo arm and was not designed to determine whether TC-1734 is equivalent to donepezil. The co-primary endpoints for the study were measures of cognitive function and global function. Consistent with previous clinical results, TC-1734 exhibited a benign safety and tolerability profile."

Read the full press release from Targacept

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

"ACE mobile": An Application for Dementia Evaluations ( Neuropsychology? General Practice? ...?)

A curious development for those interested in neuropsychological assessment and in assessment related to dementia, as a not-for-profit company released on the 9th of July a free mobile application that is a version of Addenbrooke's Cognitive Examination.

Here is the press release: press release.

The original examination was created by Dr. John Hodges, who is involved with the mobile application as well. The name derives from his time at Cambridge (he is currently a lead researcher at an Australian neuroscience institute).

The website for the application is:

Whether or how this impacts a couple of mobile devices in this same testing space being released by companies Cogstate and Cambridge Cognition (presumably to be sold, rather than released for free) will be very interesting to consider. The structure of the Addenbrooke's (at least its paper-and-pencil version) is different from both, in that it is a screen covering multiple cognitive domains with only a little coverage for each area, whilst the other two are comprised of multi-item selective tests of isolated domains.

Whether there will be professional "blowback" for the release of a psychological testing device in an uncontrolled environment is a broader and potential serious issue.

Free is commendable indeed! Unregulated in terms of user, perhaps not so much?

I am looking forward to examining the instrument and collecting documentation related to it, given the important roles that neuropsychology and neuropsychologial assessment offer in terms of understanding dementia and related cognitive impairments.

ADDENDUM: An Australian Soundcloud interview with Dr. Hodges about ACEmobile is available at this link.

Forthcoming Event: Alzheimer's Association International Conference - AAIC 2014 (Copenhagen, 12-17 July)

This year's AAIC Conference begins on the 12th in Copenhagen. Here is the conference home page: available here.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

The current issue of the journal "Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation" has a six-article collection providing the so-called "INCOG Guidelines for Cognitive Rehabilitation Following Traumatic Brain Injury"

Specific topics include: post-traumatic amnesia (PTA)/delirium, attention, memory, execution function, self-awareness, and communication.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Fatigue

Möller MC, Nygren de Boussard C, Oldenburg C, & Bartfai A. (2014). An investigation of attention, executive, and psychomotor aspects of cognitive fatigability. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology. 2014 Jun 26:1-14. [Epub ahead of print]

Centre for Clinical Research Sörmland, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.

Objective: Self-perceived mental fatigue is a common presenting symptom in many neurological diseases. Discriminating objective fatigability from self-perceived mental fatigue might facilitate neuropsychological diagnosis and treatment programs. However clinically valid neuropsychological instruments suitable for assessment of fatigability are still lacking. The prime aim of the study was to investigate aspects of cognitive fatigability and to identify properties of neuropsychological tests suitable to assess fatigability in patients with persistent cognitive complaints after mild brain injury. Another aim was to investigate whether cognitive fatigability captured by neuropsychological measures is influenced by depression or sleep disturbances. Method: Twenty-four patients with persistent cognitive symptoms after mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), (aged 18-51 years) and 31 healthy controls (aged 20-49 years) underwent neuropsychological testing measuring three cognitive fatigability domains: Attention fatigability was assessed using the Ruff 2 & 7 Selective Attention Test, executive fatigability using the Color Word Test (Stroop), and psychomotor fatigability using the Digit Symbol Substitution Test from the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Third Edition (WAIS-III). Subjective fatigue was measured using the Fatigue Severity Scale and a questionnaire of everyday consequences of fatigue. Depression was screened using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and sleep disturbances using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Results: The patients reported significantly more mental fatigue and performed worse on tests of psychomotor and executive fatigability than the healthy controls. Furthermore, the cognitive fatigability measures were not influenced by depression or sleep disturbances, as was the case in self-reported fatigue. Conclusion: Tests demanding executive or simultaneous processing of several neuropsychological functions seem most sensitive in order to capture cognitive fatigability. Clinical tests that can capture fatigability enable a deeper understanding of how fatigability might contribute to cognitive complaints and problems in maintaining daily activities.

PMID: 24965830 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Informed Consent and Tainted Fruit

The masters of the universe at Facebook don't seem to have cared too much about Human Subjects Research Guidelines and Informed Consent, but if you are a psychology or a neuropsychology student then you should. You likely already possess more knowledge about it than they did.

Know your professional guidelines for doing research. In the US, know your American Psychological Association guidelines. In the UK, know your British Psychological Society guidelines. Where ever you are, know the guidelines.

More generally, there is The International Compilation of Human Research Standards - 2014, which "enumerates over 1,000 laws, regulations, and guidelines that govern human subjects research in 107 countries," The Belmont Report of 1979, and The Nuremberg Code of 1947 (yes, that Nuremberg).

As for the Facebook study, I believe that the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the academic journal that published the study, should withdraw, dismiss, remove it. The tainted fruit of the poisonous tree.

However, despite a tepid apology from Facebook, the academic institutions and the PNAS journal still appear to be in some time-warped Nixonian "hunker down" denial mode. They should know better.

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Bayley MT, Tate R, Douglas JM, Turkstra LS, Ponsford J, Stergiou-Kita M, Kua A, & Bragge P. (2014). INCOG Guidelines for Cognitive Rehabilitation Following Traumatic Brain Injury: Methods and Overview. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 29(4), 290-306.

INTRODUCTION:: Traumatic brain injury results in complex cognitive sequelae. However, clinicians have difficulty implementing the available evidence. An international group of researchers and clinicians (known as INCOG) convened to develop clinical practice guidelines for cognitive rehabilitation posttraumatic brain injury.

METHODS:: The Guidelines Adaptation and Development cycle was used to derive the recommendations. Previously published cognitive rehabilitation recommendations were identified and tabulated. An expert panel met to select appropriate recommendations. Afterward, the team enhanced the recommendations by reviewing available literature. To address shortfalls of previous guidelines, the team developed decision algorithms incorporating the recommendations based on inclusion and exclusion criteria of published trials and expert opinion. The team then prioritized the recommendations for implementation and developed audit criteria to evaluate adherence to best practice.

RESULTS:: The team recommends that individuals have detailed assessments of cognition after resolution of posttraumatic amnesia. Cognitive assessment and rehabilitation should be tailored to the patient's neuropsychological profile, premorbid cognitive characteristics, and goals for life activities and participation. Clinical algorithms and audit tools to evaluate current practice are provided.

CONCLUSION:: Cognitive rehabilitation should be offered to select individuals with traumatic brain injury. These guidelines provide assistance to clinicians who want to provide evidence-based care.

PMID: 24984093 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Dr. Jennifer Groh's Duke Course "The Brain and Space" at Coursera

The course "The Brain and Space" has just completed its run at Coursera.

Here is the course's description: click here.

It is well worth your time on its next offering, so keep it in mind!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

NIH Toolbox

From a PRweb press release:

Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society special series validates element of NIH Toolbox

An eight-essay collection of articles in the Journal of the International Neuropsycholoigcal Society confirms the validity and reliability of the Cognition Battery element of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Toolbox for the Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function

27 June 2014

Read the press release here

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Parenting Stress

Hile S, Erickson SJ, Agee B, & Annett RD. (2014). Parental stress predicts functional outcome in pediatric cancer survivors. Psychooncology. 2014 May 10. doi: 10.1002/pon.3543. [Epub ahead of print]



Childhood cancer survivors are at risk for long-term neurocognitive and psychosocial morbidities. Research has seldom examined the relationship between these morbidities; thus, little empirical evidence exists concerning overall salience and how morbidities converge to impair day-to-day functioning. An increased understanding of functional impairment resulting from the pediatric cancer experience can inform early risk identification as well as sources for intervention. The purpose of this study was to characterize the frequency/severity of functional impairment and identify significant neurocognitive and psychosocial determinants of functional impairment.


Fifty child-parent dyads were enrolled. Children were aged 7-19 years who were at least 2 years postdiagnosis with leukemia/lymphoma and were recruited through a pediatric oncology late effects clinic. Parents completed questionnaires, rating their own adjustment to their child's illness as well as their child's level of functional impairment, while a brief neuropsychological exam was administered to children.


Twenty-six percent of the sample evidenced clinically significant functional impairment. Regression analyses indicated that neurocognitive deficits did not predict functional impairment, whereas parental stress was a significant predictor.


Although children demonstrated both neurocognitive deficits and functional impairments, results favor psychosocial factors, such as parental stress, as a predictor of overall functional impairment. The implications of this study suggest that late effects aggregate to impact day-to-day functioning in pediatric cancer survivor populations and parental stress may serve as a marker for heightened risk. The results suggest that broader functional domains, especially school and self-care domains, should be evaluated and considered when identifying potential targets for psychosocial interventions.

Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

PMID: 24817624 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Monday, June 30, 2014

Dr. Frances Kelsey

This Canada Day, celebrate the life of 99-year-old Dr. Frances Kelsey, originally from Vancouver Island.

She said "NO" to pressure from pharma for the FDA to approve thalidomide in the early 1960s.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Memory in Everyday Life: Healthy or Defective?"

I am pleased to be providing certified continuing-education (CE) credit courses at HealthForumOnline.

My first one, a 4-CE course, just went live several hours ago:

"Memory in Everyday Life: Healthy or Defective?

My next one, later this summer, addresses the assessment of language functioning.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2014 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures Report from the Alzheimer's Association

The "2014 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures" report from the Alzheimer's Association has been released. It is available as a .pdf document at Facts and Figures and has an accompanying YouTube video.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day

Robinson, G. & Ceslis, A. (2014). An unusual presentation of probable dementia: Rhyming, associations, and verbal disinhibition. J Neuropsychol. doi: 10.1111/jnp.12041. [Epub ahead of print]

We report a case of probable Alzheimer's disease who presented with the unusual feature of disinhibited rhyming. Core language skills were largely intact but generative language was characterized by semantic-based associations, evident in tangential and associative content, and phonology-based associations, evident in rhyming, in the context of prominent executive dysfunction. We suggest this pattern is underpinned by a failure to terminate or inhibit verbal associations resulting in a 'loosening' of associations at the level of conceptual preparation for spoken language.
© 2014 The British Psychological Society.

PMID: 24581283 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Monday, March 03, 2014

Alzheimer's: "Still Alice" - The Movie!

I commonly use Lisa Genova's wonderful novel, "Still Alice" as a text in the courses I teach about Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

If you are a fan of the work as I am, you will be perhaps interested to know that filming for the movie has entered production. Shooting is taking place in New York City.

The film stars Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, and Kate Bosworth, under the direction of Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland.

Maria Shriver is the Executive Producer. Release date sometime in 2015.