Meet our students: Arielle Levy
"Learning how to critically consume research has been a very valuable skill – because once you understand that, you can be constantly educating yourself by reading new literature."
Arielle is enrolled in the combined M.Psych (Clinical Neuropsychology)/PhD program at UoM. She has completed the M.Psych portion of her degree and is in her final year of her PhD project.
1. Tell us briefly about your research areas of interest, what prompted you to do a PhD in this area?
For a long time I’ve been interested in the intersection between psychology and neuroscience – how what’s going on in the brain affects someone’s behaviours and abilities – so neuropsychology was a perfect fit for me. Within that my interests have been quite broad (my honours thesis looked at synaesthesia, and I’ve also been involved with research in addiction and in learning/memory), so I think there are many different PhD projects I would have been happy with in different universes. Probably the most important factor for me was working in a research area where I felt like my work could contribute to making a tangible impact on people. Working in the mild traumatic brain injury space, where we’re still trying to figure out how to better support individuals with prolonged recovery, definitely ticks that box for me!
2. Tell us about your PhD project. What is it about? What did you/do you hope to find?
My PhD focuses on better understanding subjective cognitive symptoms after mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). In other words, I’m looking at how people perceive their cognitive abilities (memory, attention, etc.) are after an mTBI. These cognitive symptoms are important because they contribute to recovery outcomes including individuals’ return to work – if someone feels their cognitive abilities are impaired in the longer term after their injury, they’re not going back to work, or they’re not succeeding when they do go back to work. It’s a very interesting area, because subjective cognition is much less straightforward than it seems! For one thing, subjective cognition seems to have much less to do with objective cognitive performance than we might expect, at least within the mTBI population. Part of my research focus is to explore some of the other factors that underlie these symptoms. One factor that we’ve found to be important is psychological distress (including symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD): individuals with higher psychological distress report greater cognitive symptoms after mTBI. The overall goal of my PhD is to comprehensively explore these cognitive symptoms with the hope that a better understanding of these symptoms will contribute to improved care and treatment for individuals recovering from mTBI.
3. What is the most valuable thing that you have learned so far from doing a PhD at UoM?
I think learning how to critically consume research has been a very valuable skill – because once you understand that, you can be constantly educating yourself by reading new literature. Given that I hope to later work as a neuropsychologist, being able to keep up on the most recent findings in the area will be especially important.