My research is in the area of neuropsychology, with a particular focus on executive functions. Executive functions refer to a set of abilities that allow us to choose the most appropriate behaviors given different contexts, to plan ahead and follow through with our plans, and to avoid acting on impulses. In other words, it is our intact and mature executive functioning that makes it possible for us to avoid behaviors that are typical of babies and young children, such as grabbing someone else's food when hungry, crying when frustrated, or purposelessly wondering around when looking for something we have lost.
Many neurologic populations, such as patients with certain types of dementia, stroke, or serious brain injury, can have profound impairments in executive functioning. However, other individuals, such as those characterized by certain personality disorders, survivors of mild brain injuries, or individuals in preclinical stages of dementia exhibit lapses in executive functioning that are intermittent and triggered in unpredictable ways. Such mild or intermittent executive difficulties, while potentially leading to serious errors in everyday life, are difficult to detect in the context of structured clinical or research settings.
My long-term research goal is to advance our understanding of what triggers lapses in executive functioning, as well as to advance methods for identifying individuals who are at risk for such lapses. In the next several years, my lab will be focusing on testing and refining the Contextually Valid Executive Assessment (ConVExA) model. This model is built on several assumptions: First, while EF represents a stable trait, it also presents as a fluctuating trait; consequently, EF performance on any given day may or may not reflect one’s true and stable EF capacity. Second, although EF represents the best predictor of one’s functionality in daily life, other inherent characteristics (e.g., IQ, personality, temperament) in part determine how much EF is needed for a given task to be carried out correctly. Third, although relatively little EF may be needed for a simple daily task (e.g., a simple medication regimen), if such a task is placed in the context of a highly complex daily life, the probability that such a task will be carried out incorrectly increases despite normal or even superior performance on EF tests. The work in my laboratory will be focusing on quantifying these various relationships, so as to improve the ecological validity of EF assessment. Currently, this research has been focusing on executive abilities in the context of (a) planning immediate motor output, and (b) emotion regulation. This research has utilized the following populations:
- Adults and children with autism
- Community-dwelling older adults
- Older adults with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia
- Adults with unipolar depression
- Sex offenders
- College students
My clinical interests focus on neuropsychological assessment of adults who have suffered various types of brain insult. I have worked both with patients who are in the acute phases of recovery, such as patients who have just suffered a stroke or a traumatic brain injury, as well as with patients who suffer from chronic or slowly progressing conditions, such as various types of dementia, Multiple Sclerosis, or old injuries.
Although I do not specialize in pediatric neuropsychology, prospective graduate students should note that several pediatric neuropsychologists with excellent resources both on and off campus are available for supervision of work with children.
Opportunities For Students
I will be recruiting a new graduate student for Fall 2016. I will be looking for students who are interested in neuropsychological research on normal and abnormal aging, and on identifying (a) early preclinical markers of cognitive decline among older adults and (b) markers that signal risk of executive lapses in daily life, as they relate to the ConVExA model (described above). This line of research may include examination of older adults' early changes in executive functioning, emotion regulation, or complex motor programming/motor learning. Additionally, in collaboration with Dr. Paula Williams, we are also interested in examining personality changes that signal incipient cognitive decline in old age. These questions would all be examined within the framework of the currently ongoing longitudinal project, as well as the currently ongoing cognitive intervention project. Students in my laboratory are motivated to generate publications, and are generally well-published by the time they leave graduate school. Representative publications from these lines of research in our lab include Kraybill, Thorgusen, & Suchy (2012), Franchow & Suchy (2015), Euler, Niermeyer, & Suchy (2015), and Suchy, Kraybill, & Franchow (2011). Within this general framework, I encourage students to identify their own niche and to develop their own line of programmatic research.
Competitive applicants will demonstrate a strong research interest in studying neurocognitive markers of preclinical/subclinical cognitive change, and will have some experience working with older adults. Experience with administration of neuropsychological tests is also valued and strongly encouraged. With respect to neurocognitive domains of interest, applicants should have some conceptual understanding of the construct of executive functioning, as it relates to either motor learning/motor programming, or to emotion regulation.
Research Assistants/Undergraduate Volunteers
Although my lab is currently full, I do consider admitting new volunteers on an ongoing basis. If you are interested in the line of research described above, and you are a highly motivated to learn about and contribute to all aspects of research (e.g., recruitment of participants, data collection, data entry), feel free to contact myself of one of my graduate students. We generally admit new volunteers for one semester on a trial basis. Following the trial period, we often require a one year commitment and the ability to contribute at least 5 hours a week to the lab activities. Hours are highly flexible.
Post-doc, Evanston Hospital (Clinical Neuropsychology, 1998-2000)
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Psychology, 1998)
M.A., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Psychology, 1995)
B.S., University of Wisconsin-Parkside (Psychology/English, 1991)
Franchow, E.I., & Suchy, Y. (2015). Naturally-occurring expressive suppression in daily life depletes executive functioning. Emotion,15(1), 78-89.
Larson, J.G., & Suchy, Y. (2015). The contribution of verbalization to action. Psychological Research,79(4), 590-608..
Euler, M., Niermeyer, M., & Suchy, Y. (2015). Neurocognitive and neurophysiological correlates of motor planning during familiar and novel contexts. Neuropsychology. doi.org/10.1037/neu0000219
Suchy, Y. Euler, M. & Eastvold, A., (2014). Exaggerated reaction to novelty as a subclinical consequence of mild traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury. Early online publication, DOI: 10.3109/02699052.2014.888766
Suchy, Y. Eastvold, A., Strassberg, D.S., Franchow, E.I. (2014). Understanding processing speed weaknesses among pedophilic child molesters: Response style vs. neuropathology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 123 (1), 273-285.
Larson, J.G., & Suchy, Y. (2014). Does language guide behavior in children with autism? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(9), 2147-2161.
My Current Graduate Students