"My goal today is to help rehabilitation move to the next level by studying cognitive rehabilitation strategies for people with MS, and by making rehabilitation more applicable to people's everyday lives."
Yael Goverover was drawn to occupational therapy because, she says, "you're helping people perform daily activities, and that's meaningful to them." She also appreciates the fact that occupational therapists have to understand how to treat many different impairments. "You need to integrate a lot of knowledge, while making sure that you apply that knowledge with enough flexibility to suit each patient. All of this fits my personality."
Goverover comes to the Occupational Therapy Department - where she received her Ph.D. - after completing her post?doctoral work at Kessler Medical Rehabilitation Research and Education Corporation in West Orange, New Jersey. "My original interest was in traumatic brain injuries, but a lot of research at Kessler is with persons diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I found myself more and more interested in that area. My goal today is to help rehabilitation move to the next level by studying cognitive rehabilitation strategies for people with MS, and by making rehabilitation more applicable to people's everyday lives."
Goverover is currently in the midst of two major projects. The first, a three-year study funded by the Multiple Sclerosis Society, expands upon an earlier study into thegeneration effect, a technique that helps people with MS remember words. "For example," she explains, "I might say, ‘We're going to make an omelet. Beat together two large...' Hopefully the patient would generate the word ‘eggs.' If they generate the word on their own, they will remember it better than if the word is provided to them by the therapist."
In the present study, Goverover is trying to see if the generation effect can be applied to patients' daily living. She is working with two groups of patients - one with no cognitive impairments and one with moderate to severe impairments. Both groups are asked to remember a list of words using the generation effect and to perform four common everyday tasks. "I want them to choose the two tasks that are most meaningful to them. My hypothesis is that people who are more severely impaired in terms of cognition will certainly benefit from using the generation effect, but they will benefit even more if the task they are involved in is meaningful for them." The goal is to decide which patients will benefit the most from using this strategy and, ultimately, whether they can really use it to improve their daily living.
The other study Goverover is working evolves from her research into the spacing effect,which shows how people can better remember information. "If you want to best absorb information you read in a newspaper article, for instance, you should read the article, put it aside, and then read it again an hour later. You'll retain more that way." Goverover now wants to see if the spacing effect works with tasks such as learning names of people, finding objects in a location and remembering dates on a calendar. She also hopes to determine if the spacing effect in conjunction with the generation effect might have a stronger influence on memory and learning. As with all of Goverover's work, the goal is to develop treatment strategies for patients.
Students are assisting Goverover on both studies by collecting data, and she hopes the more my students become aware of her work, they will be drawn to help out with the research. "I'm really looking forward to make new inroads into my own field of study, and I genuinely hope that it excites people in the department."