Our Research

What we study

We do traditional neuropsychological research that examines psychological (cognitive, behavioural, and emotional) consequences of brain injury or illness. However, we are especially interested in how people think about and cope with neurological symptoms such as memory problems and sensory sensitivity, how coping behaviours influence the experience and expression of symptoms, and how we can reduce symptoms and disability with rehabilitation interventions that facilitate adaptive coping. In other words, we study the psychological determinants of health in neurological disorders. Concussion (mild traumatic brain injury) is a major focus of our research, as it is a useful clinical model for understanding how people cope with neurological symptoms. We also study the implementation of evidence into clinical care for patients with concussion.

Examples of active research projects

Behavioural profile matching: A precision medicine approach to concussion rehabilitation

How people cope with their symptoms following concussion powerfully influences their recovery. We identified two unhelpful coping styles following a concussion: (1) avoidance, where people perceive activity as unnecessarily dangerous and take great care to avoid overexertion, and (2) endurance, where people engage in high levels of activity despite worsening symptoms until they “crash,” requiring recuperative rest. We are conducting a randomized controlled (comparative effectiveness) trial to test the hypothesis that matching the treatment approach to the patient’s copying style (avoidance vs. endurance) will improve outcomes after concussion. See Clinicaltrials.gov for more details about this ongoing study. Funder: CIHR. Co-investigators: Andrew Baker, Mark Bayley, Chantel Debert, Grant Iverson, Will Panenka, Debbie Snell, Ana-Maria Vranceanu, Keith Yeates.

Mobilizing early management of mental health complications after mild traumatic brain injury (M4)

Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are common in the months following concussion. They can make concussion symptoms worse and magnify difficulties with daily activities, but often go unrecognized. In a cluster randomized trial, we are evaluating the effectiveness of a guideline implementation tool to support family doctors to screen and initiate treatment for mental health problems after concussion, and to education patients about the importance of mental health treatment and treatment options. Details about this study will be posted on Clinicaltrials.gov. Funder: CIHR and the VGH+UBC Hospital Foundation. Co-investigators: Patrick Archambault, Penny Brasher, Jeff Brubacher, Linda Li, Will Panenka, Frank Scheuermeyer.

Functional cognitive disorder: From mechanisms to treatment

People often experience memory and other cognitive problems that are not fully explained by brain injury or disease. It is not well understood how “functional” cognitive symptoms develop and persist. We are investigating mechanisms underlying functional cognitive symptoms following concussion with multiple experimental modalities, including questionnaires (e.g., of personality traits), performance-based neuropsychological and metacognitive testing, electroencephalography, electrodermal activity, and magnetic resonance imaging. Funder: Pending. Co-investigators: Daniella Palombo, Joelle LeMoult, Will Panenka, David Perez, Julia Schmidt, Rebecca Todd, Todd Woodward.