Dr. Rassovsky's Lab
Head, Cognitive Enhancement and Rehabilitation Lab
Dr. Yuri Rassovsky is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Psychology and at the Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center. His research focuses on innovative methods for cognitive enhancement and rehabilitation of neurocognitive deficits in severe mental illness and neurological disorders.
Early Visual Processing in Schizophrenia
Problems in perception and attention are common in schizophrenia and have important implications for functional recovery. However, the nature of these problems is not well understood. Research in Dr. Rassovsky's lab aims to examine the mechanisms that may underlie early visual processing deficits in schizophrenia. We use behavioral masking and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) procedures to assess feedforward and reentrant visual processes in samples of schizophrenic patients and healthy volunteers. This line of research allows us to disentangle the relative contribution of these processes to visual perceptual deficits in schizophrenia and to better understand the neural substrate that may underlie these deficits.
Processing of Emotion in Schizophrenia
Impairment in social functioning has been extensively documented in schizophrenia and recognized as one of the hallmarks of the disorder. Over the last decade, considerable research has focused on social cognition, which is the ability to construct mental representations about others, oneself, and relations between others and oneself. Social cognition is thought to facilitate skillful social interactions and is, therefore, considered a potential determinant of social dysfunction among schizophrenics. An important aspect of social cognition is the ability to perceive emotions. Numerous studies have shown that individuals with schizophrenia are less accurate than healthy controls in their ability to perceive emotions. However, despite the important implications these deficits have for social functioning, potential neural mechanisms that might underlie these deficits have not been elucidated.
Our research aims to explore potential mechanisms that might underlie affect perception deficits in schizophrenia. We ask individuals with schizophrenia and healthy controls to discriminate between different emotions displayed in still photographs of faces while manipulating the spatial frequency of these stimuli, thereby differentially activating separate neural pathways. In parallel, we assess the temporal properties of affect perception by suppressing the visibility of the stimuli with single-pulse TMS at different intervals.
Understanding Brain and Cognitive Reserve
The construct “reserve” has been proposed as the key factor that mediates the reported mismatch between brain insult and the observed cognitive impairment. Although “reserve” is an abstract theoretical concept, the identification of its measured parameters has important practical applications, as these parameters reflect neurophysiological mechanisms and real-world abilities that are crucial for post-injury adaptive functioning.
This research aims to identify key variables that define the “reserve” construct and its role in the process of aging, by studying clinical populations with traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI presents a unique opportunity to examine “reserve,” as it involves an identifiable event that sets the process of the aging brain off its normal course. By elucidating the “reserve” construct, the group aims to gain a better understanding of the critical variables that contribute to functional outcome in TBI patients and impact their mental aging.
Looking to the Future
Rassovsky and his team explore novel intervention strategies, such as aerobic and anaerobic exercises, martial arts training, and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), with the aim to enhance and rehabilitate neurocognitive functions in diverse clinical populations. The team also employs various neuroimaging techniques to better understand the brain mechanisms underlying these processes.