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Brainy UI student delves into the brain

BY SHANE ERSLAND | MAY 15, 2009 7:30 AM

While working with patients diagnosed with vascular disease at the UI psychiatry department, UI junior Caitlin Moore began to wonder how difficult it would be for the individuals to live independently.

Soon after, she began conducting a study that focused on how cognitive performance was related to difficulty in handling daily activities in individuals in the early stages of vascular disease.

Preventative measures are often taken to delay functional decline in vascular patients who have dementia, but Moore studied patients who haven’t developed dementia yet to see if clinicians should start taking preventative steps before it sets in.

The Salina, Kan., native questioned 50 patients to see if they had problems with daily activities including managing finances or preparing a balanced meal.

“About half of them endorsed problems with daily living,” Moore said.

These results, Moore said, showed that the relationship between performance in daily activities and cognitive status is present before the onset of dementia, earlier than clinicians traditionally begin monitoring vascular patients for functional decline.

“Clinicians need to keep these people active doing their higher-order activities,” the 20-year-old said. “This will help them to not forget how to do it.”

Moore works for UI Associate Professor of psychiatry David Moser, who agrees that the study’s research could affect clinicians’ treatment of vascular disease in the future.

“We’d be able to help these people earlier, is the crux of it,” Moser said.

The research was recognized by the Iowa Center for Research for Undergraduates, and in April, they presented Moore with a $1,000 award for funding to use next year.

Moore will use the money to present her vascular disease study at the International Neuropsychological Society conference in Acapulco, Mexico, in February 2010.

The UI junior said she also wants to help people living in poverty, an interest she developed while spending time in Cambodia over Christmas break.

“I learned then what Third World poverty really means,” she said.

Moore is on the board of directors for World Health Initiative, a nonprofit UI student organization that attacks global-health concerns. The organization will hold the first UI fast-a-thon next fall in an effort to raise money for local and global starvation, and increase awareness for poverty.

UI junior Katie Klocke, who lives with Moore, says she admires her roomate’s dedication to school.
“She’s a goal-oriented person with a good mix of preparation for school and still having fun in life,” Klocke said.

Moore became interested in working with people with brain disorders when she worked in an adult care center while she was in high school. She enjoys working with adults with brain injuries and hopes to do research on Alzheimer’s disease someday.

After graduating next year, Moore plans on going to graduate school to obtain a doctoral degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis on neuropsychology, and she hopes to be a clinical neuropsychologist some day.

“I’ve always been interested in the brain,” she said.


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