Welcome to the inaugural Neuropsychology Book Club.
Some of my favorite newsletters and blogs are curated lists of articles, books, and other media that someone found interesting and wants to share. In that vein, this semi-regular series will share random things I've been reading, discovering, or revisiting. Discussion, disagreement, and book/article/topic recommendations are welcome!
Each NBC post will have up to 3 sections:
Online: Things I stumbled across online recently without specifically searching for them, like long-form articles, journal articles, podcast episodes, video clips, etc.
Book: A specific book recommendation, with some quotes I found intriguing.
Deep Dive: A deeper look at a specific topic, organized by theme or (like today) by specific researcher. Sometimes just a large collection of links, sometimes maybe more commentary/discussion.
So let's get to today's selections.
This collection of online selections all relate to psychosis. (I don't think this section will usually have a theme; it just worked out that way this time.)
Long Form Article: What Schizophrenia Does To Families, Abigail Jones, Washington Post Magazine, January 13 2020 Excerpt: "Over the past 20 years, Aaron has spiraled from a high school star and an academic all-American on the Arizona State University football team to a ward of the state of Maryland. He has been captive not just to a schizophrenic brain but to a perfect storm of factors — underfunded treatment facilities, prisons and jails serving as de facto asylums, a lack of advancements in medication — that has made it generally harder for people with serious mental illnesses to get the help they need. All the while, Anita has been at Aaron’s side, trying to care for her son while insulating her family — and the public — from his unpredictable behavior. As she puts it, 'Protecting the mentally ill, you become mentally ill just trying to get it all together.'"
Research Press Release: Antipsychotics for Schizophrenia Linked to Lower Mortality, CVD Risk, Medscape Psychiatry News, January 16 2020 From the Article: Although previous research has suggested a link between antipsychotic use, cardiovascular disease, and increased mortality, "Investigators followed more than 62,000 residents of Finland for up to 20 years and found that the cumulative mortality rate during periods in which antipsychotics were used was considerably lower than periods in which antipsychotics were not used."
Podcast: Biomarkers of Accelerated Aging in Severe Mental Illness with Dr. Lisa Eyler, Navigating Neuropsychology, part 1 of 2, November 16 2019 Description: "Severe mental illness (SMI) refers to mental disorders that result in significant functional impairment (e.g., schizophrenia and bipolar disorder). In this episode, we bring you Part 1 of our conversation with Lisa Eyler, Ph.D., about inflammation in individuals with SMI, how inflammation is associated with accelerated aging and other health problems, and the clinical utility of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in this population."
Journal Article: Metacognitive Therapy for Individuals At Risk for Developing Psychosis: A Pilot Study, Parker, Mulligan, Millner, Bowe & Palmier-Claus, Frontiers in Psychology, January 2020 From the Abstract: "We conducted a single-arm exploratory pilot trial, designed to investigate the feasibility and acceptability of Metacognitive therapy for individuals at ultra-high risk (UHR) of developing psychosis. [...] Clinically significant results were observed in psychotic like experiences, anxiety, depression and functioning with medium to large effect sizes. Measures related to beliefs and processes targeted within MCT showed clinically significant change with medium to large effect sizes."
The Knowledge Gap, by Natlie Wexler
Amazon link: here
"Reading comprehension" is typically taught as a specific skill in the classroom. Students read passages and are taught specific skills for approaching the text, such as recognizing the writing style or identifying the topic sentence. Reading comprehension is also assessed as a specific skill through our reading tests, including ones like the GORT-5, FAR, WIAT-III, KTEA-3, and WJ-IV. In this model of reading comprehension, students are either "good comprehenders" who will be successful with most texts, or "poor comprehenders" who are likely to struggle with any complex text (or somewhere in between).
Using an engaging mix of observations in real classrooms, a review of the research, and in-depth reporting about the history of educational movements over the last few decades, educational journalist Natalie Wexler challenges this basic assumption of reading comprehension as a stand-alone skill.
Her research leads her to a different conclusion: That reading comprehension is based almost entirely on background knowledge of the topic being read about. When that knowledge is missing, readers cannot comprehend the passage, even if they are supposedly "good readers." And students who are struggling to comprehend a text are usually lacking the knowledge they need to understand and contextualize it.
There isn't a "reading comprehension gap" between students who understand a passage and students who don't, she argues. There's a "knowledge gap." This knowledge gap especially hurts struggling students and those with less educational opportunity. This knowledge gap can't be filled with instruction in reading comprehension strategies. Only a knowledge-rich curriculum can give students the knowledge they need to be able to comprehend complex text.
Do you kind of hate all of our available reading tests? Do you secretly suspect "reading comprehension" is not really a "thing" that can be measured, or that it's so multifaceted that it's hard to measure with any fidelity? Do you wonder what will help students who seem to struggle with reading comprehension? Do you want to read about adorable second-graders who - because of a knowledge-rich curriculum - can answer questions like "Who do you think will fire the first shot at the Battle of Bull Run?" by saying they think "the Confederates will fire the first shot, because they fired the first shot at Fort Sumter"?
"In 1987, two researchers in Wisconsin, Donna Recht and Lauren Leslie, constructed a miniature baseball filed and installed it in an empty classroom in a junior high school. [...] Each student was asked to read a text describing half an inning of a fictional baseball game and move the wooden figures around the board to reenact the action described.
[...] It turned out that prior knowledge of baseball made a huge difference in students' ability to understand the text - more of a difference than their supposed reading level. The kids who knew little about baseball, including the 'good' readers, all did poorly. And among those who knew a lot about baseball, the 'good' readers and the 'bad' readers all did well. In fact, the bad readers who knew a lot about baseball outperformed the good readers who didn't."
[This has been supported in other studies, which have shown that] "when prior knowledge was equalized, comprehension was essentially the same. In other words, the gap in comprehension wasn't a gap in skills. It was a gap in knowledge."
The implication is clear: abstract "reading ability" is largely a mirage constructed by reading tests. A student's ability to comprehend a text will vary depending on his familiarity with the subject; no degree of 'skill' will help if he lacks the knowledge to understand it. While instruction in the early grades has focused on 'learning to read rather than 'reading to learn', educators have overlooked the fact that part of 'learning to read' is acquiring knowledge.
Research has established that one aspect of reading does need to be taught and practiced as a set of skills, much like math: decoding, the part that involves matching sounds to letters. The problem is that the other aspect of reading - comprehension - is also being taught that way. While there's plenty of evidence that some instruction in some comprehension strategies can be helpful for some children, there's no reason to believe it can turn struggling readers into accomplished ones. [...]
People need to have enough facts in their heads to have what one commentator has called 'a knowledge party' - a bunch of accumulated associations that will enable them to absorb, retain, and analyze new information. Educational certainly shouldn't end with facts. But if it doesn't begin there, many students will never acquire the knowledge and analytical abilities they need to thrive both in school and in life. "
Don't want to read the whole book? Check out Wexler's article in the August 2019 issue of Atlantic Monthly: Elementary Education Has Gone Horribly Wrong.
Pair this book with:
Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, by Maryanne Wolf
Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read, by Stanislas Dehaene
The Acquisition of Reading Comphrension Skill [PDF] Chapter by Perfetti, Lindi, and Oakhill in The Science of Reading: A Handbook
What Intelligence Tests Miss, by Keith Stanovich (not related to reading, but in case you're in the mood to challenge the status quo around other commonly used neuropsychological tests)
Deep Dive [Link Collection]:
Len Koziol passed away last week. Dr. Koziol was a clinical neuropsychologist with a practice in the Chicago area. He was also a prolific author who contributed immeasurable insights into our understanding of how subcortical structures like the cerebellum and basal ganglia affect cognition. He left us a treasure trove of books, articles, and listserv posts, and influenced countless neuropsychologists through teaching, mentoring, and sharing his ideas. Here's a collection of some of his articles and books.
Must-read articles (First 3 available free full-text):
From Movement to Thought, Koziol, Budding & Chideklel (2011), Cerebellum
Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing, and Sensory Modulation Disorders: Putative Functional Neuroanatomic Underpinnings, Koziol, Budding & Chidekel (2011), Cerebellum
Consensus Paper: The Cerebellum's Role in Movement and Cognition, Koziol et al (2014), Cerebellum
Special Section: Large Scale Brain Systems: Implications for Pediatric Neuropsychological Evaluation, Applied Child Neuropsychology, Volume 3 Issue 4 (not available free full text, but all the articles being in the same issue makes it easier to borrow from a library or friend)
Dr. Koziol's books:
I'll try to cover one of these books in a future NBC post.