facing retirement, but they also have to have a strategy for themselves.”
The science of team science
Northwestern University’s Bonnie Spring, PhD, has a penchant
for studying “wicked problems” — the challenges that can
be teased apart best by a team of experts
from different disciplines. As a professor
of preventive medicine, psychology and
psychiatry, she has become a specialist in
developing treatments for health problems
that often come bundled together, such as
smoking, obesity and depression.
In her plenary presentation, “A Science
of Team Science to Optimize Research
and Practice,” Spring will discuss how
high-impact research increasingly involves interdisciplinary
teams and how the emerging science of team science can help
psychologists and others work on interdisciplinary teams
to improve care. She will recommend that the members of
an interdisciplinary research team execute a “pre-nuptial”
collaboration agreement before beginning a project. She will
also help to dispel the notion that conflict is harmful to teams.
“Psychology is one of the disciplines that can most greatly
increase its impact by mastering the science of team science,”
The science of teen brains
In the eyes of the law, should adolescents be treated like
children or adults? That’s the kind of question developmental
psychologist Laurence Steinberg, PhD, of
Temple University, fields regularly as an
expert in adolescent brain development.
And it’s the focus of his plenary talk,
“Should the Science of Adolescent Brain
Development Influence Public Policy?”
The answer is a qualified “yes,” he says.
Both behavioral and neuroscience research
on adolescent development can inform
public policy, but it should be done with
caution and not in every situation. And neuroscience data
should not trump behavioral evidence.
“The public believes that we can look into someone’s brain
and tell how mature the person is,” says Steinberg. “I’d rather
make a decision about whether someone should be given a
driver’s license by giving him a driving test rather than giving
him a brain scan.”
Steinberg will explain what researchers know about the
adolescent brain and what that knowledge means for legal
policies, including driving age, voting age and how the criminal
justice system should deal with juvenile offenders.
This is your brain on exercise
Wendy Suzuki, PhD, remembers the first time she realized
just how much her brain benefited from her regular workout
regimen. It was 2008 and she was bogged
down with deadlines.
“Ideas flowed quicker and it was much
easier to write grant applications,” says
Suzuki, a neuroscientist at New York
University. “Everything just worked better
when I was going to the gym regularly.” It
was a discovery that led her to launch a new
line of research examining the effects of
aerobic exercise on learning, memory and
cognition in humans.
Suzuki’s first study participants were a group of NYU
undergraduates who enrolled in a course she was teaching.
She spent the first hour of the class leading the students in
aerobic exercise, then followed it with a 90-minute lecture on
the effects of exercise on the brain. She found that the students
showed significant improvement on a recognition memory
task compared with a control class that did not participate in
the exercise portion of the course. A second as-yet-unpublished
study found that a single hourlong gym trip improved students’
working memory function and attention span.
Suzuki says her long-term term goal is to understand the
specific brain mechanisms that underlie these changes, and
share them with policymakers and educators.
Integrating psychology into health care
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a model of
integrated, interdisciplinary health care in which mental health
is a central focus, says Antonette Zeiss, PhD,
the VA’s chief consultant for mental health.
In her plenary talk, “Psychological
Services for Veterans: Integral to
Interdisciplinary VA Healthcare,” Zeiss will
explain VA psychologists’ role as part of
primary-care teams made up of physicians,
nurses, pharmacists, social workers and
other providers. In addition to helping the
health-care teams work effectively with
patients with mental health problems, these psychologists
screen patients for mental health problems, provide brief,
focused interventions and refer patients to mental health
specialty care when needed, says Zeiss.
Zeiss will also discuss the VA’s clinical practice guidelines,
which require clinicians to use specific evidence-based
psychotherapies. “Our clinical practice guidelines fit with what
APA is doing to develop its own clinical practice guidelines,”
she says. “I hope that the VA’s experience can be helpful as APA
moves forward.” n