Neurocognitive Disorders and Interventions

Dr. Sarah DeBoard Marion’s lab group has been focused on researching important questions in the area of neuropsychology. Students in her lab usually complete master theses and dissertation work from projects on going in her lab as well as collaborative work with LA area researchers. Current ongoing projects in her lab center on investigation of white matter functioning, virtual reality assessment, and cognitive intervention.

 

Neuropsychological and virtual classroom performance in children with learning and attention problems: The effectiveness of working memory training

Principle Investigator Sarah DeBoard Marion

This study is a collaborative project between Dr. DeBoard Marion, her students, and collaborators in the LA area including Drs. Janiece Turnbull (child neuropsychologist), Beth Housekamp, (Alliant University/CSPP), Galen Buckwalter, and Albert “Skip” Rizzo (USC’s Center for Creative Technologies). In this pilot study, this team hopes to accomplish two overarching aims. First, they are studying attention and working memory skills as measured by performance in a virtual reality classroom or “virtual classroom”. 

They are comparing a group of children identified as having emerging learning and attention needs with a control group recruited from the same school on standardized neuropsychological tests and virtual classroom attention and working memory tasks. Second, they are investigating whether working memory training improves neurocognitive and real-world behavior for children with learning and attention problems. For this aspect of the study, children with emerging learning and attention difficulties will complete an intense, 5-week working memory training program called Cogmed™ followed by a repeat of our baseline assessment.

Research Team (in alphabetical order): Ben Coleman, Rachael Green, and Christina Young

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Functional indicators of white matter function, neurocognitive performance, and cognitive training in aging adults

Principle Investigator:  Sarah DeBoard Marion

Several years ago, Dr. DeBoard Marion and a team of students conducted a pilot study in which they sought to characterize the performance of healthy older adults on tasks that require interhemispheric and frontal-executive functioning. Additionally, they compared performance of older adults to a younger cohort. Early findings from this study have been consistent with previous literature showing that healthy older adults nevertheless have some disruption in processing speed and interhemispheric communication. This project represents the first of many studies Dr. DeBoard Marion hopes to complete in the area of aging and cognition. Specifically, this project will serve as pilot and/or control data for an ongoing investigation of white matter function as an early indicator of pathological brain changes such as Age-Associated Memory Impairment (AAMI), Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), and dementia.

Many students in Dr. DeBoard Marion’s laboratory have and continue to be interested in the neuropsychology of aging through their involvement in ongoing projects such as the healthy aging study and via collaborations with area researchers including but not limited to Drs. Karen Miller and Po Lu at UCLA’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center as well as researchers at Harborview UCLA Medical Center.

Consistent with these interests, a new project is in the planning phase in which students in Dr. DeBoard Marion’s lab (and possibly collaborators in the Pasadena area) will seek to better understand cognitive and interhemispheric functioning in individuals either “at-risk” or showing actual cognitive decline (i.e., dementia). They will hope to provide and study cognitive and psychosocial interventions designed to improve the lives of those at-risk or in the early stages of dementia.

Research Team (in alphabetical order): Tim Arentsen, Megan Gomez, John Guthrie, Stella Panos, Heather Schroeder, Sandra Viggianni, Kris Thomas, Rodney Wilson, Dah-yun Yi, and Anna Yu 

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Neurocognitive Assessment of Normative Attentional Functioning in a Virtual Environment

Principle Investigator: Sarah DeBoard Marion

In this ongoing study, Dr. DeBoard Marion’s team has been assessing healthy individuals on a variety of paper-and pencil neuropsychological tests, personality instruments, and novel virtual-reality cognitive tasks. In collaboration with colleagues, Drs. Thomas Parsons and Albert “Skip” Rizzo at the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) at the University of Southern California (USC), our goal has been to conduct an in-depth study of complex, divided attention across a variety of conditions both in a standard paper-and-pencil fashion and in more and less immersive and complex virtual environments. They have been assessing the effects of a virtual Iraqi environment has on complex attention processes. Another element to this study has been that one of the VR conditions has allowed us to investigate whether performance on the same attention task varies under conditions of complexity and a more neutral virtual environment. Thus, they have employed three variations on the Paced Auditory Serial Addition task or PASAT originally developed by Gronwall (1977). This data will add to normative data for an ongoing project in collaboration with Drs. Rizzo and Parsons. It will also aid in the standardization efforts of these virtual tasks.

Research Team (in alphabetical order): Ben Coleman, Philip Gable, John Guthrie, Jonathan Wellman, and Andrew Wong

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Clinical Outcomes Following Hemispherectomy for Intractable Epilepsy

Principle Investigator: Sarah DeBoard Marion

This project is a collaborative effort between Dr. DeBoard Marion, her students, and researchers at UCLA stemming from an NIH grant entitled Developmental neurobehavioral studies: Functional plasticity in children with early hemispherectomies completed a number of years ago under the direction of Dr. Robert Asarnow. Since the inception of hemispherectomy (surgical removal of one side of the cortex) as a viable option for the remediation of severe epilepsy several decades ago, investigators have been engaged in better understanding both the functional, clinical implications of this dramatic and life-saving surgical procedure and the implications this has regarding the plasticity of the human brain. In other words, what functions can the remaining hemisphere assume that would usually be performed by the resected side? For this study, individuals with a history of hemispherectomy were identified, contacted, and asked to return to UCLA to undergo neuropsychological and functional assessment. It represents one of the largest studies of the neurocognitive and functional outcome of hemispherectomy patients to date. Currently, Dr. DeBoard Marion and her students are collaborating with Dr. Asarnow to more fully understand the originally-collected data. Other collaborators to this study are Drs. Gary Mathern and Sue Yudovin.

Research Team (in alphabetical order): Esther Chin, Joseph Lee, and Rodney Wilson

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Posters presented at INS 2010

Arentsen, T.J., Yi, D., Panos, S., Schroeder, H., Brown, W.S., & Marion, S.D. (February 2010). Interhemispheric Transfer Time (IHTT) and executive functioning: A healthy aging examination of the speed of the cortical communication. Poster presented at the 38th annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Acapulco, Mexico. Click here for abstract.

Hilleary, S..M., Marion, S.D., Brown, W.S., Babikian, T., Copeland, S.A., Giza, C., Chin, E., & Asarnow, R. (February 2010). Corpus callosum MRI morphology and functional outcomes following pediatric traumatic brain injury. Poster presented at the 38th annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Acapulco, Mexico. Click here for abstract.

Lee, Jo., Parsons, T., Van Rooyen, A., Gooch, J., Knuth, E., & Rizzo, A. (February 2010). Attentional functioning in children following mild closed head injury: The importance of prospective sampling. Poster presented at the 38th annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Acapulco, Mexico. Click here for abstract.

Lee, Ju. (February 2010). General cognitive functioning following hemispherectomy in children with intractable seizures. Poster presented at the 38th annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Acapulco, Mexico. Click here for abstract.

Panos, S. E., Kim, M.S., Miller, S. Foley, J.H., Castellon, S.A., Heaton, R.H., Sadek, J., & Hinkin, C.H. (February 2010). Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of medication adherence and cognition among HIV+ adults: Comparison between optimal adherers, sub-optimal adherers, and poor adherers. Poster presented at the 38th annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Acapulco, Mexico. Click here for abstract.

Wilson, R., Marion, S.D., Lee, J., Mathern, G., & Asarnow, R. (February 2010). Language and visual-spatial function following hemispherectomy. Poster presented at the 38th annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Acapulco, Mexico. Click here for abstract

Yi, D., Marion, S.D., Arentsen, T., Panos, S., Schroeder, H., & Brown, W.S. (February 2010). Interhemispheric transfer predicts error monitoring disruption in executive functioning and bimanual coordination tasks for younger but not older adults: Implications for healthy aging of white matter pathways. Poster presented at the 38th annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Acapulco, Mexico. Click here for abstract.

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