Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Computerised testing - a nice collection of tests for learning difficulties

I have been looking at computerized neuropsychological tests lately. For three very important reasons:
  1. Computers do a much better job of administering some tests, e.g. those of speed of processing and attention. I think that our insistence on human-administered tests may mean that we use substandard tools for some jobs.
  2. I think that neuropsychologists need to start using computerised tests a lot more - our expertise is in test interpretation, and we don't have to personally administer each and every test that we interpret - it is not the most efficient use of our time, and
  3. I am booooored - how many times a week can you do the same thing (admittedly in different clinical context, but still)?
I'll get into the tests I have used or still use on another occasion, but today I want to share a new set of tests I've just discovered. They focus on learning difficulties and are produced by a British company - Lucid Research (http://www.lucid-research.com).

For example, there is a fully computerized working memory test (named Recall), normed on over 1000 kids aged 7-16 years (though while most age groups are around 100 kids, there are only 21 kids in the 16 - 16:11 group). The program tests verbal short term memory, visual short term memory and working memory (a task of which has both visual and verbal content, but is probably more verbal in nature). Simple, but definitively worth a look.

They also have a selection of tests screening for cognitive issues that may cause reading problems. For example Rapid screen looks at phonological processing, short-term auditory memory (they name it working memory, but it isn't really), phonic decoding skills and visual-verbal integration memory. All this in 15 minutes of testing without intense input from the administrator. Nice.

While Rapid is a quick screener, there are also in-depth diagnostic tests of reading difficulties. For example LASS 8-11 (yes, LASS, there is also LADS - quite British, this) has verbal span, visual span, reading words, nonwords and sentences, phonological processing, spelling and a quick general ability screen. A nice little test to add to the battery for those of us who deal with learning difficulties.

Has anybody used the tests and could provide their experience and impression in the comments?

Cheers,
Izabela

Thursday, January 15, 2015

T-shirts again

I started the year with a lot of admin and now have a pack of new assessments that need to be written up. So for light relief I went searching for brain-related t-shirts.

I've checked http://www.zazzle.com/, which used to have some nice ones and have been most impressed by how their collection has expanded. From brain images, MRI scans and chemical structure of neurotransmitters to t-shirts with slogans such as 'Area 25 made me do it'.

There is also a wide selection of t-shirts for our clients, including such beauties as: 'Concussions will mess with your head', 'Not today, darling, I had a craniotomy', or  'I have chemobrain, what is your excuse?'. Also and iPhone cover that says 'Keep calm and listen to the neuropsychologist'. I'd get a few if I was doing neuropsych rehabilitation.

Sadly, there is also a selection of t-shirts and gadgets with Stroop test.

I'm contemplating buying a t-shirt with 'I can't brain today, I have the dumb' that is just perfect for some  days. And a mug with 'Trust me, I am a neuropsychologist' to use at work.

cheers,

Izabela

PS: I am building up to some serious posts on computerised assessment tools. I'd appreciate guest posts from people who use them in their practice.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Something every geeky neuropsychologist should have

With thanks to Les Posen who forwarded the link.

A New Zealand company Brainform offers 3D prints of your own brain from MRI scan files. $430 full scale, $140 half-size. Just the cortex, mind you, no subcortical structures included. No cerebellum either, which the website explains by saying:
"Partly because it looks like a scrotum, partly because the cortex is the most interesting to look at, and partly because sometimes the details of it don't segment out from scans that well."

If you don't have an MRI scan, you can always participate in research that requires an MRI - the site offers a free service linking clients with researchers that are looking for participants (this is also worth knowing if you are looking for subjects). If you don't feel like getting a scan, you can get a stock brain for $360 full scale or $100 half size.

I'm so tempted,

Izabela

A video of a symposium on brain plasticity and healing - with ridiculous number of celebrities

Two days ago University of Alabama had a very interesting symposium. They invited Dalai Lama to discuss brain plasticity with Michael Merzenich  -  who can well be called a father of the whole discipline. To top it up, the symposium was moderated by Dr Norman Doige, the author of the book The Brain that Changes Itself. This is celebrity cast on steroids. I'm looking forward to watching it tonight.

The video of the symposium can be found on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJlmRISL-QA&list=UUOMZCCUBnjdhjhtNAUfkGqg

A warning - the video appears to be almost 3 hours long, although the comment on the front suggests that the event starts at the 26 minute mark.

cheers,

Izabela

Thursday, October 23, 2014

iPad testing in Multiple Sclerosis

There is an interesting test for Multiple Sclerosis progression that uses the iPad in a very different way - attaching it to the back to assess walking and balance, clipping an apparatus to the screen to assess manual dexterity in a pegboard-like task, and a test very similar to coding, but done entirely on the iPad. Check here for a video summary and the full text of the article by Rudick, R. A., Miller, D., Bethoux, F., Rao, S. M., Lee, J. C., Stough, D., et al. The Multiple Sclerosis Performance Test (MSPT): An iPad-Based Disability Assessment Tool. J. Vis. Exp. (88), e51318, doi:10.3791/51318 (2014) for the full info.

Worth seeing to realize how much the iPad can actually do to facilitate testing.

cheers,

Izabela

A new bunch of gadgets for the elderly

I found a new site with a multitude of cool medical gadgets. The ones for the elderly are on http://www.medgadget.com/geriatrics

I am not sure whether I am impressed or truly spooked. How would you like a chair that measures vital signs through your butt? Just being released by EarlySense from Waltham, Massachusets. Or maybe an airbag for the elderly that opens up when they are falling to protect the hips? A true non-fashion statement, considering that you have to wear it outside your clothes. How about sensors that dob you in to your children if you did not make coffee in the morning? The gizmo in question monitors the use of small appliances to detect if something has happened to an elderly person living alone.

And this is only the first page of the gadgets. Go and have a look.

cheers,

Izabela

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Technology talk next week and the best IT resource of today

I'm giving a talk about technology in private practice for Pearson in Melbourne this coming Friday, 29.8.2014. I'm organizing nice, juicy lists of useful tricks and gadgets, and having a lovely time researching all sorts of stuff.

If anybody is interested in coming, there should still be spots. Check http://learn.pearsonacademy.com.au/au/courses/176-using-technology-in-psychology-practice-tricks-and-gadgets if interested. Please note, spelling is not mine.

Among all the lovely goodies, the juiciest resource I worked with today was unquestioningly the APS guide to practice management software. Beautifully compiled, with web information, contact details, cost and detailed comparison of features. Lovely.

The address is: http://www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/Software-for-Psychologists.pdf

It is from April 2013, so somewhat out of date, but still worthwhile.

cheers,
Izabela