"Our research seeks to clarify the relationship of adaptive functioning and executive control deficits in a sample of elderly residents with Parkinson's disease," explained Allen, a staff member at the WSU Center for Psychological Services. He has 15 years of experience in studying Parkinson's disease and other cognitive changes associated with aging.
Parkinson's disease is a progressive nerve disorder, usually in the elderly, that affects millions of individuals. The symptoms include shakiness, slow movement, rigidity and various cognitive deficits.
For the purposes of this study, Allen said adaptive functioning means activities of daily living such as cooking, shopping and grooming. Executive control deficits refer to the ability to plan and think ahead and involve aspects of memory, judgment and abstract reasoning.
"Our goal is to see if we can find ways for the elderly with this disease to better cope with everyday living. There is only so much that medicine can do to slow the process, and we want to determine if changes in their environment can help these individuals. For example, in the area of executive control deficits, we know they have the ability to store information but are not always able to retrieve it. We want to find ways for them to recall this information."
The study directed by Allen included work by WSU graduate students Rose Mary Shaw, Laura Samson and Michael Cecil. Their statistically valid sample of 55 elderly residents of a Midwestern city included 26 with Parkinson's disease and 29 without who functioned as a control group.
Last summer Allen directed a presentation on the research at the International Neuropsychological Society meeting in Berlin, Germany.