Two Wesleyan faculty received a $492,410 Academic Research Enhancement Award (R15) from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) to support their study titled “Comparing Cognitive Remediation Approaches for Schizophrenia.”
R15 awards provide funding for small-scale, new, or ongoing health-related meritorious research projects, enhancing the research environment at eligible institutions and exposing students to research opportunities.
The R15 principal investigator Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, and R15 co-investigator Jennifer Rose, professor of the practice and director of the Center for Pedagogical Innovation, will work with a group of Wesleyan undergraduates for the duration of the three-year, randomized clinical trial that compares—for the first time—two well-studied approaches to cognitive training in schizophrenia.
One treatment arm investigates a computerized “drill-and-practice” intervention exercise focused on attention, working memory, and verbal and visual memory. Participants are given tasks that gradually increase with difficulty.
The other approach is to compare results from a manualized, once-a-week training group that focuses on providing people with schizophrenia an array of strategies to help bypass their cognitive difficulties and enhance their daily functioning. These interventions include mnemonic strategies such as visualization and use of acronyms and a variety of environmental supports such as training in use of memory notebooks and whiteboards.
A range of outcome measures, selected and organized according to the presumed mechanism of action of each intervention, are administered before and after treatment, and at a three-month follow-up.
“The goal of the research is to provide guidance on best clinical practices for people with schizophrenia, while the goal of the grant mechanism is to enhance undergraduate experiences in biomedical research at Wesleyan,” Kurtz explained.
While Kurtz is an expert on the treatment of neuropsychological deficits in schizophrenia, Rose is a data analytics expert. The undergraduates will be crucially involved in cognitive and functional test administration, intervention administration, and data analysis.
The study is a collaboration with River Valley Services in Middletown, Conn., and The Institute of Living in Hartford, Conn., and is also designed to strengthen educational ties between Wesleyan and these important local mental health treatment sites.
Joseph Coolon, assistant professor of biology, received a $492,566 grant on Sept. 12 for his research titled “Information Flow through Regulatory Networks.”
Amy MacQueen, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a $492,900 award on Aug. 7 for her research titled “How do Synaptonemal Complex Proteins Mediate the Coordinated?”
Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a grant worth $492,900 on Sept. 17 for her research titled “Investigating the Role of MutSy in Meiotic Recombination and Maintaining Genome Integrity.”