The Behavioral Sciences Post-Doctoral Fellowship develops excellent behavioral scientists to teach the appropriate psychosocial intervention techniques used in working with people with epilepsy, and contributes to the body of behavioral research in epilepsy. Individuals who will have received their doctoral degrees in a field of the social sciences by the time the Fellowship commences, and desire additional postdoctoral research experience, may apply.


Kirsty Bortnik, Ph.D.

The Trustees of Columbia University, New York, NY
Naming assessment for Spanish-speakers with Epilepsy

Word-finding or "naming" is an important language skill that is often compromised in people with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Historically, naming has been assessed via visual object naming, yet this task has failed to consistently identify true naming difficulties. The development of auditory description naming has improved the sensitivity of naming assessment and has proven useful in identifying brain areas that are important for language. However, these naming measures are not available in Spanish, which compromises assessment and treatment for a significant proportion of the epilepsy population. There are significant limitations to existing visual naming measures for Spanish speakers (e.g., inclusion of culturally unfamiliar test items), and no Spanish auditory naming measures have been developed. This proposal will develop a set of standardized, culturally-appropriate, naming measures for native Spanish-speaking adults. Study findings will lead to better diagnosis of naming deficits in Spanish-speaking adults with epilepsy, which will ultimately assist in their epilepsy treatment and care.

Gaelle Doucet, Ph.D.
Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA
Can resting-state networks predict cognitive change after epilepsy surgery?

Developing tools to prevent cognitive co-morbidity following epilepsy brain surgery is an elusive, but critical clinical goal. While the deficits in episodic memory are well understood, the reasons for deficits in functions such as attention and working memory are not clear in this largely mesial temporal disorder. The purpose of this study is to assess the integrity of key well-defined resting-state networks on a pre-surgical basis and determine their ability to predict neurocognitive outcomes after brain surgery. For this project, the patients will all have realized both pre- and post-surgical neuropsychological evaluations to assess cognitive changes. Also, they will have undergone a resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging condition, pre-surgery. This will allow mapping the brain networks involved in the major functions (episodic memory, working memory, executive control, language and attention). Overall, the goal of the project is to provide maps of cognitive networks relevant for cognition, so they might be preserved during surgery and further help epileptic patients to maintain their quality of life post-surgery.