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 recent work in my laboratory has been, and will continue to be, focusing on quantifying these various relationships, so as to improve the ecological validity of EF assessment.
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 2019. 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). Currently, we are starting a large project that will follow the daily functioning of community dwelling older adults in their homes. We are interested in seeing how executive functioning interacts with personal characteristics (e.g., IQ, personality) and with a variety of potentially deleterious contextual factors (e.g., poor quality of sleep, experience of pain, emotion regulation demands, complexity of daily life) in predicting risk of daily functional lapses.
Students in my laboratory are motivated to generate publications, and are generally wellpublished by the time they leave graduate school. Within the general framework of ongoing project, I encourage students to identify their own niche and to develop their own line of programmatic research. Examples of recent publications with my students include the following (student co-authors are italicized):
- Suchy, Y. Niermeyer, M., Franchow, E., Ziemnik, R. (in press) The deleterious impact of expressive suppression on test performance persists at one-year follow-up in communitydwelling older adults. The Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.
- Niermeyer, M., Ziemnik, R., Franchow, E., Barron, C., Suchy, Y. (in press). Greater Naturally-Occurring Expressive Suppression is Associated with Poorer Executive Functioning and Motor-Sequence Learning Among Older Adults. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology.
- Suchy, Y., Franchow, E.I., Niermeyer, M.A., Ziemnik, R., Williams, P.G., & Pennington, N. (in press). Exaggerated reaction to novelty as a predictor of incipient cognitive decline among community dwelling older adults. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology.
- Franchow, E.I., & Suchy, Y. (2017). Expressive suppression depletes executive functioning in older adulthood. The Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 23, 341-351.
- Niermeyer, M. A., Suchy, Y. & Ziemnik, R. E. (2017). Motor sequencing in older adulthood: Relationships with executive functioning and effects of complexity. The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 31(3), 598-618.
Competitive applicants will demonstrate a strong research interest in studying executive functioning, functional lapses, or preclinical/subclinical cognitive changes in old age, and will have some experience working with older adults. Experience with administration of neuropsychological tests is also valued and strongly encouraged.
Research Assistants/Undergraduate Volunteers
We 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)
- Berg, C.A, Wiebe, D.J., Suchy, Y., Turner, S.L., Butner, J, Munion, A., Hughes Lansing, A., White, P.C., Murray, M.A (in press). Executive function predicting longitudinal change in type 1 diabetes management during the transition to emerging adulthood. Diabetes Care.
- Suchy, Y., Holmes, L.G., Strassberg, D.S., Gillespie, A.A., Nillsen, A.R., Niermeyer, M.A., & Huntach, B.A (in press). The impacts of sexual arousal and suppression of sexual arousal on executive functioning. Journal of Sex Research.
- Suchy, Y., Queen, T.L., Huntbach, B., Wiebe, D.J., Turner, S.L., Butner, J, Kelly, C.S., White, P.C., Murray, M.A., Swinyard, M., & Berg, C.A. (2017). Iowa Gambling Task performance prospectively predicts changes in glycemic control among adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes. The Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 23 (3) 204-213.
- Niermeyer, M. A., Franchow, E.I., & Suchy, Y. (2016). Reported Expressive Suppression in Daily Life is Associated with Slower Action Planning. The Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 22, 671-681.
- Euler, M., Niermeyer, M., & Suchy, Y. (2016). Neurocognitive and neurophysiological correlates of motor planning during familiar and novel contexts. Neuropsychology. 30 (1), 109-119.
- Franchow, E.I., & Suchy, Y. (2015). Naturally-occurring expressive suppression in daily life depletes executive functioning. Emotion, 15(1), 78-89.
My Current Graduate Students