Research

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Bringing Mobile Technology into Neuropsychiatric Assessment

Major Projects


Bringing Mobile Technology into Neuropsychiatric Assessment

The core activity of the BaCH Tech Lab is the development, validation, and dissemination of methods for accurately and precisely assessing cognitive and psychological functions in individuals across the lifespan, to understand how cognition is related to mental and physical health.

Citizen Science
Our research and technology development is driven by the participation of about 800-1000 citizen scientists every day through TestMyBrain.org. These are people from all over the world who want to contribute to research and learn more about their own minds and brains. By providing interesting, individualized research results to our participants, we have been able to recruit and test over 2.5 million people since 2008.

Creating Tools for Web/Mobile Neuropsychiatric Assessment
Good science depends on good tools. One of our primary goals as a lab is to translate traditional assessment tools from cognitive neuroscience, clinical neuropsychology, and clinical neuropsychiatry to web platforms and mobile devices, for self-administration. Our goal is to create tools that are as sensitive, reliable, engaging, and accessible as possible across a wide range of participants and technology platforms. We achieve this by using an Iterative Test Development approach, which takes principles from software and user interface design (e.g. A/B testing, iterative development, and modular architecture) and applies them to the optimization and validation of neuropsychiatric assessments.

Quantifying Behavior
Finally, our work aims to bridge the gap between formal assessment and real-world behavior. In the modern information age, the ubiquity of traditional and mobile computers means that there are new opportunities to capture behavior in what is (for about 90% of adults in the United States) the naturalistic setting of a webpage or mobile application. Using modern psychometric and computational approaches, we are developing methods for quantifying cognitive health and psychological function outside of traditional “testing” paradigms.


Mobile Measures of Threat Sensitivity and Psychopathology (ThreatSense)

One of the major goals of the lab is to understand how cognitive functioning varies within individuals over time, particularly how these variations are linked with differences in mental health. Variations in threat sensitivity, in particular, are considered a core part of the development and maintenance of mental disorders. Threat sensitivity refers to the degree people exhibit threat-related attentional, memory, and interpretation biases reflecting their preferential allocation of cognitive resources to threats. While threat sensitivity is a trending topic in the field of psychology, there is an unfilled gap in our ability to reliably and objectively capture variations in threat sensitivity. This project aims to tackle this issue by using an iterative test development procedure to evaluate and select brief, reliable, performance-based measures of threat sensitivity. These will then be used in large-scale ecological momentary assessment studies looking at links between objective measures of threat sensitivity and mental health symptoms in a sample of patients at McLean Hospital (N=200) and a diverse sample of community members recruited through the Bronx-based Albert Einstein College of Medicine (N=400). This project is funded by an R01 from the NIH National Institute of Mental Health (PI: Germine).

Collaborator(s):
Kerry Ressler, McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Martin Sliwinski, Pennsylvania State University
Mindy Katz, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Courtney Beard, McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Kristin Javaras, McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School

Glycemic Variability and Cognition (GluCog)

This project examines glycemic variability and fluctuations in cognitive status in adults with Type I diabetes. In this study, we use cognitive ecological momentary assessment and blinded continuous glucose monitoring sensors to understand how glycemic excursions and glycemic variability are associated with short-term changes in cognitive function. This project will also determine how state variables (e.g. fatigue, mood) impact the relationship between glycemia and cognitive status, and whether diabetes-related factors (duration of illness, HbA1c) moderate the association between glycemia and cognitive status. This project is funded by an R01 from the NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (MPIs: Germine and Chaytor).

Collaborator(s):
Naomi Chaytor, Washington State University
Kerry Ressler, McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Ruth Weinstock, SUNY Upstate Medical University
Martin Sliwinski, Penn State University
Kellee Miller, Jaeb Center for Health Research Foundation Inc.
Michael Cleveland, Washington State University
Hans Van Dongen, Washington State University

Mobile Monitoring of Cognitive Change (M2C2)

Traditional longitudinal methods that rely on infrequent ‚Äúsingle-shot assessments” often fail to capture subtle cognitive changes associated with normal aging and health-related conditions. Working with a national team of researchers, we are using mobile technology to develop ultra-brief cognitive tests for high-frequency cognitive assessment and cognitive monitoring (e.g. ecological momentary assessment and measurement burst designs). Such tools will help us to characterize changes in cognitive performance over short and long time scales, potentially leading to a new taxonomy of cognition based on intraindidividual change as well as tools for the research community. Our lab leads the selection and initial development of cognitive measures using iterative task development methodologies (see our review in Germine, Strong, Singh, and Sliwinski 2020 Neuropsychopharmacology). The technology we develop through this project provides the foundation for many other projects locally and nationally. This project is funded by a U2C grant from the National Institute of Aging (PI: Martin Sliwinski, Penn State).

Collaborator(s):
Martin Sliwinski, Penn State University