Tag Archive for Matthew Kurtz

Kurtz Speaks on Improving Thinking Skills in Schizophrenia


On Nov. 18 as part of the Wesleyan Faculty Lunch Talk series, Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology, spoke about “Thinking Skills in Schizophrenia: Can They Be Improved, and If So, How?” Kurtz said people with schizophrenia have cognitive deficits in attention and memory, which seem to predict the degree to which they are able to participate in community activities, make friends, attend a work skills or social skills program, or have stronger performance-based functions such as making phone calls, organizing, or making a doctor’s appointment. “This suggests that if we were to elevate cognition, we might be able to elevate function.”

Kurtz, Rose Receive NIMH Award for Schizophrenia Study

Matthew Kurtz

Matthew Kurtz

Jennifer Rose

Jennifer Rose

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.

Kurtz Works with Wesleyan Alumni at MINDS Foundation in India

At left, Matthew Kurtz, in  Gujarat, India.

At left, Matthew Kurtz, in Gujarat, India.

Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, traveled to Gujarat, India in March to work with The MINDS Foundation. The organization provides mental health services to rural regions of the developing world.

While in India, Kurtz joined Lennox Byer ’12, director of programs, to enhance current programming and develop a social/vocational skills rehabilitation program for patients. Kurtz is developing this program using his research experience gained through social skills training programs he has developed for patients with Schizophrenia in Connecticut. Kurtz is a MINDS Foundation board member.

The MINDS Foundation was founded in 2010 by Raghu Appasani ’12.


Kurtz Researches Psychological Treatments for Schizophrenia

In this video, Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior, talks about his research on cognitive remediation – one of several newer psychological treatments for schizophrenia. He discusses the promising results he and his Wesleyan students have observed working with patients at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Conn.


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Kurtz Published in Scientific American Mind Magazine, Academic Journals

Matthew Kurtz

Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, has published an article in the March 2013 issue of Scientific American Mind magazine. Kurtz, who studies schizophrenia, writes about the less-well-known symptoms of the disease, which include cognitive and social deficits. These troubles make it difficult for people with schizophrenia to maintain meaningful relationships, hold jobs and live independently. Sadly, drugs used to treat the hallucinations and delusions in schizophrenia do nothing to improve patients’ quality of life in these other areas.

In the article, Kurtz describes some of the new psychological interventions shown to improve cognitive and social skills in people with schizophrenia. One such therapy, called cognitive remediation, uses computer software or paper-and-pencil exercises to improve patients’ ability to concentrate, remember, plan and solve problems. Other treatments, called social cognitive or “social skills” training programs, work to improve social skills by helping patients to decipher emotional cues and take another person’s perspective. Remarkably, these therapies appear to create visible changes in brain activity.

The full article can be viewed online (a fee applies for non-Wesleyan-network readers).

In addition, Kurtz, together with students in his lab, recently had two academic papers on schizophrenia published.

On Dec. 30, 2012, the paper, “Cognitive and social cognitive predictors of change in objective versus subjective quality-of-life in rehabilitation for schizophrenia,” was published in Psychiatry Research. Written by Kurtz, psychology major Melanie Bronfeld ’12, and Research Professor of Psychology Jennifer Rose, the paper explores the role of cognitive, social cognitive and symptom factors as predictors of response to psychosocial rehabilitation in schizophrenia. Somewhat different patterns of factors predicted change in objective indices of quality-of-life, (eg. work success, number of friends, etc.) and subjective quality-of-life indices (ie. personal satisfaction with these same life domains—vocational status and social life, etc.)  More specifically, social cognitive factors only played a role in predicting  improvements in objective quality-of-life while verbal memory predicted improvement in both domains.

Also, on Feb. 1, Kurtz, Rose and neuroscience and behavior major Rachel Olfson ’14 had a paper, Self-efficacy and functional status in schizophrenia: Relationship to insight, cognition and negative symptoms,” published in Schizophrenia Research. The authors studied the role of self-efficacy—defined as  one’s belief in his or her ability to accomplish a goal–in helping explain the relationship of cognition and negative symptoms to outcome in schizophrenia.  They found that self-efficacy only plays a role in outcome in patients with good illness insight. When illness insight is poor, self-efficacy has minimal value as a meaningful psychological construct explaining outcome in the disease.

Learn more about Kurtz’s research in this Wesleyan video.


Kurtz Co-Edits Book on Schizophrenia

Matthew Kurtz

Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, is the co-editor of a new book, Clinical Neuropsychological Foundations of SchizophreniaThe book, co-edited by Bernice Marcopulos, was published on July 11 by Psychology Press.

A resource for practicing neuropsychologists, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and neuropsychiatrists, as well as students of these disciplines, the volume provides knowledge and tools for providing professional neuropsychological services to patients with schizophrenia. It offers an overview of developmental models of schizophrenia and associated neuropathologies, and covers contemporary evidence-based assessments and interventions, including cognitive remediation and other cognitive-oriented interventions.

Kurtz Delivers “Senior Voices” Baccalaureate Address

Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, presented the “Senior Voices” baccalaureate address on May 26.

I want to start by thanking the class of 2012 for inviting me to speak at this baccalaureate celebration and permitting me to be part of these festivities. I am so happy for all of you! It’s been an honor for me to see you all mature over the past 4 years, see you become more confident in your ideas and thinking, more poised and subtle in the expression of your ideas, and more skilled in interacting with those around you, and watching students used to relaying the ideas of others, become adept at formulating their own ideas
This has been a class of many success stories, stories of individual accomplishment but this is the case with just about all Wesleyan classes. What makes this class so remarkable, and perhaps to some extent unique in its history, are the number of new non-profit organizations targeted at helping those in need around the globe—this class has helped turn Wesleyan into a truly global university.

I. Accomplishments- The formation of the MINDS organization. Started by a devoted cadre of highly committed class of 2012 students Raghu Appasani, the organization is dedicated to both the identification of and intervention with people with severe mental illness in rural India—severe depression, bipolar illness, schizophrenia and substance abuse.

NIH Awards Kurtz Grant for Schizophrenia Research

Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, received a $104,338 grant from the National Institute for Health on Feb. 8.

The grant, titled “Cognitive Remediation for Nicotine Dependence” involves adapting cognitive training procedures developed for use in schizophrenia, for addressing the temporary deficits in memory that often accompany smoking cessation in long-term users and that also predict relapse.

The project, part of a collaboration between Wesleyan and the University of Pennsylvania, is lead by Dr. Caryn Lerman, director of the Tobacco Use Research Center at Penn’s School of Medicine.  It will help support Kurtz’s work through June 30, 2015.

Kurtz Published in Neuropsychology Encyclopedia

Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, is the author of “Treatment approaches with a special focus on neurocognition: overview and empirical results,” published in Understanding and Treating Neuro- and Social-Cognition in Schizophrenia Patients, in 2010 and “Compensatory Strategies; Insight: Effects on Rehabilitation; Rivermead Behavioral Memory Test,” published in Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology, New York: Springer, 2010.

Several Faculty Receive Promotions, Tenure

Wesleyan has announced the following promotions of faculty, effective July 1, 2010:

Promotion with Tenure

During the academic year, the Wesleyan Board of Trustees maintains an ongoing process of tenure case consideration. During its most recent review, the Board awarded tenure to one faculty member effective July 1, 2010.

Michael Singer, associate professor of biology, was appointed assistant professor at Wesleyan in 2004. Previously he was postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona’s Center for Insect Science, in Tucson.

Singer’s research examines the evolutionary ecology of tri-trophic interactions between plants, herbivores and carnivores. In considering

Honors Thesis by Tolman ’10 Published in Schizophrenia Bulletin

Arielle Tolman ’10 presents her honors thesis to Wesleyan President Michael Roth. Her findings were recently accepted for publication in Schizophrenia Bulletin.

Quality-of-life for patients with Schizophrenia has been recognized as a crucial domain of outcome in schizophrenia treatment, and yet its determinants are not well understood.

Arielle Tolman ’10, who studied “Neurocognitive Predictors of Objective and Subjective Quality-of-Life in Individuals with Schizophrenia: A Meta-Analytic Investigation” as her senior honors thesis, will have the opportunity to share her research with other scientists interested in schizophrenia. This month, the editors of  Schizophrenia Bulletin accepted Tolman’s paper for publication in an upcoming edition.

“This is a real achievement, particularly at the undergraduate level,” says the paper’s co-author and Tolman’s advisor Matthew Kurtz, assistant professor of psychology.

Although other researchers have demonstrated that “quality-of-life” is not a uniform construct, Tolman conducted the first meta-analytic study

Students Present Psychology, Neuroscience Research

The Department of Psychology hosted its Research Poster Presentation April 29 in Zelnick Pavilion. Pictured is Ankit Kansal ’10 who presented his research titled “Schizophrenic Patient Decision Making.” His advisors are Andrea Patalano, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, and Matthew Kurtz, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior.