Clarkson University Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Ali Boolani has teamed up with Neurotrack, a company which creates software to measure cognitive function using eye tracking technology, to explore a range of factors that can contribute to mental health and cognition in underrepresented populations.
Boolani said the study was born out of an anomaly found in data he was collecting to research the mental health of people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We found that if you controlled for age, sex, and lifestyle behaviors, people of color and women of all races reported worse moods than Caucasian men,” Boolani said. “This led me to think about the fact that there are other things that might be going on that could be negatively influencing moods in minorities and women.”
Boolani intends to examine what role microaggressions play in grades and mental health outcomes, on top of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had. He is also collaborating with physical therapy students at Clarkson who are interested in exploring how the pandemic is influencing minority students and women in graduate health sciences programs. The study will focus on this phenomenon in graduate health sciences students.
After the initial project idea, Boolani reached out to Jordan M. Glenn, PhD, the Senior Vice President of Clinical Development at Neurotrack. After agreeing to a partnership, Boolani began his work with Neurotrack’s Clinical Project Manager Jennifer Rae Myers, PhD, who acts as the liaison between Neurotrack and Clarkson, facilitating the implementation and data management of the Neurotrack cognitive assessments.
“This study helps to address the critical need of more diverse and representative research participants,” Myers said. “It also highlights the potential impact of psychosocial and related constructs, not only concerning mental health, but cognition as well. Understanding factors that may contribute to acute or long-term changes in cognition is invaluable in providing sensitive and accurate assessments.”
In addition to demographic information, the team will be collecting cognitive performance scores from Neurotrack’s digital cognitive assessment platform - a 15 minute assessment that includes 6 cognitive tests in the areas of memory, learning, inhibition, processing speed, attention, and executive function. After completing the survey, participants will have the option to complete the assessment by clicking a link at the end of the survey which takes them to the assessment portal.
Findings from this study will help to improve Neurotrack's ability to assess cognitive performance more accurately across a broader range of individuals and to account for psychological and environmental effects on cognitive testing.
“Broadly, we hope to learn more about cognitive function across diverse populations,” Glenn said. “We also hope to learn how factors such as stress and COVID-19 may impact cognition in otherwise cognitively healthy individuals.”
Anyone interested in participating in the study can do so by visiting https://tinyurl.com/297ts9pw.