Neuropsychology

Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) Research - Neuropsychology Group
The Neuropsychology Group investigates cognitive changes associated with normal ageing and late-life disorders of cognition, to better understand the risk and preventive factors for age-related neurocognitive disorders.

About the Neuropsychology Research Group

The Neuropsychology Group was established as part of the Neuropsychiatric Institute in 2001 and has become an important part of the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing. We are actively involved in research investigating the associations between memory and other areas of cognition with brain structure, genetics, lifestyle factors, bilingualism, medical comorbidities, inflammatory markers and falls in the older adult population.

The Neuropsychology Group has grown into a major resource for the investigation of various cognitive disorders, and the expertise of the specialist neuropsychologists is sought by clinicians and researchers. We are equipped with an extensive range of neuropsychological test materials, including traditional paper-and-pencil tests and computerised formats.

Aims

Our research aims to advance scientific knowledge in relation to the cognitive changes occurring in the brain in normal ageing, mild neurocognitive syndromes and dementia using neuropsychological methods.

Projects

We have collected extensive neuropsychological data from three large cohorts of older adults — The Memory and Ageing Study (MAS), The Sydney Centenarian Study (SCS) and The Older Australian Twin Study (OATS). More than 2000 subjects ranging in age from 65 to 100+ have undergone longitudinal assessments using a large number of well-validated psychometric measures. The breadth of data collected enables us to study the unique influence of lifestyle and genetic factors on different domains of cognitive function such as memory. These unique datasets will be used to create much needed normative data for older adults which will be extremely valuable in clinical and research settings by enhancing diagnostic accuracy of mild neurocognitive disorders and dementia. We have developed our own in-house computerised test battery called ‘Sensus’ which is being validated as a brief cognitive assessment tool. Sensus includes Simple and Complex Reaction Time tests, the well-known Stroop Test with an additional set-shifting trial, and a visuospatial associative memory test. Sensus can be self-administered with minimal supervision required. Scoring is automatic for most tests and the test data are generated by the computer program.

We have established a new research project — CogSCAN: Study of Computer-Administered Neuropsychological tests in seniors — funded by the NHMRC ‘Boosting Dementia Research’ scheme. CogSCAN will evaluate the performance of several computer-administered cognitive tests for assessment in healthy aged, Mild Cognitive Assessment and dementia. There is an urgent need to develop a method of neuropsychological testing that is efficient and accessible while maintaining appropriate standards of reliability and validity, to meet current and future demands and to facilitate timely and accurate diagnosis of cognitive disorders in the clinic. Numerous computerised neuropsychological assessment instruments have become available that have the potential to overcome the limitations of conventional neuropsychological assessments by providing superior time and cost efficiency, scalability, accessibility, precision and lower requirement for clinician expertise. Before these can be implemented into clinical practice, it is essential that these instruments have established reliability and validity for the older adult population including those with Mild Cognitive Impairment and early dementia. This study will be the first systematic, independent evaluation of the psychometric properties, acceptability and performance of the most prominent computerised neuropsychological assessment instruments currently in the field within this older adult population.

Opportunities

Research projects using our rich, neuropsychological databases are available for ILP, Medicine (Hons), Masters or Doctorate in Clinical Neuropsychology, or PhD Studies.

Staff

Collaborators

  • Professor Kaarin J Anstey, Centre for Research on Ageing, Australian National University
  • Professor David Bunce, Institute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds, UK
  • Professor John R Crawford, University of Aberdeen, School of Psychology, UK
  • Associate Professor Julie D Henry, School of Psychology, Queensland University
  • Dr Karen Mather, Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), UNSW
  • Associate Professor Greg Savage, Department of Psychology, Macquarie University
  • Associate Professor Wei Wen, Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), UNSW

Students

  • Premilla Chinnappa-Quinn, PhD student, UNSW
  • Dansen Cho, Independent Learning Project (2019), UNSW
  • Ashwini Kumar, Independent Learning Project (2019), Medicine, UNSW
  • Andrea Lammel, PhD student, Macquarie University
  • Annette Spooner, PhD student, UNSW
  • Alice Yan, Independent Learning Project (2019), Medicine, UNSW

Funding Acknowledgements

  • Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration, UNSW
  • NHMRC Boosting Dementia Research Project Grant 2017-2020 (Dr Nicole Kochan, Chief Investigator)