People

James F. Sumowski, PhD: Principal Investigator
Faculty Appointment:
Associate Professor of Neurology and of Psychiatry
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Clinical Neuropsychologist
Corinne G. Dickinson Center for Multiple Sclerosis
Educational Background:
Clinical Research Fellowship in Neuropsychology & Neuroscience:
Rutgers, New Jersey Medical School & Kessler Foundation
Internship in Clinical Neuropsychology:
Long Island Jewish Medical Center
Ph.D., Columbia University:
School Psychology with a Neuropsychology Focus
B.A., Philosophy and Psychology:
Seton Hall University

My interest in neuropsychology began as an undergraduate philosophy student grappling with the “mind-body problem:” the age-old conundrum of how an immaterial mind interacts with the material body. We now recognize that the mind and all of its abilities and difficulties are the direct manifestation of brain physiology. This fact seems obvious when considering voluntary limb movements, visual perception, or the formation of memories; however, we are only beginning to understand the reverse: how environment and behavior impact brain structure and function. Herein lies potential for building a brain capable of preserving function despite disease, or harnessing the brain’s innate plasticity for functional recovery in the face of challenge.  We are investigating lifestyle choices and potential interventions that may build reserve against cognitive, physical, and emotional difficulties. That is, we are exploring ways that persons with MS can actively work to build a healthier and more resilient brain. For us, the new “mind-body problem” is identifying the choices and behaviors capable of promoting reserve.

 

Laura Johanson: Graduate Student, PhD program

Laura joins Dr. Sumowski’s lab as a second year Ph.D. student in School Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her previous research experience at the Florida State University were in the areas of: (1) traumatic brain injury and cognitive functioning, (2) cognitive anxiety sensitivity treatment, and (3) perceptual illusions and anxiety reduction, and she seeks to expand her research to cognitive impairment and reserve in individuals with multiple sclerosis. During her first year of doctoral work, she administered comprehensive psychoeducational assessments and completed integrated case conceptualizations in order to assess children’s cognitive, academic, behavioral, and social-emotional difficulties at the Dean Hope Center for Educational and Psychological Services. Presently, she gains clinical experience through fieldwork at an alternative high school in Brooklyn, New York, where in addition to administering assessments, she provides long-term counseling and consultation to older adolescents with a wide range of social, emotional, and behavioral issues. In her spare time, Laura enjoys reading mystery fiction, running, hiking, and sailing. For a detailed description of Laura’s academic work, you can view her CV here.

Rosemarie Kurtz: Graduate Student, PhD program

Rosemarie Kurtz joins Dr. Sumowski’s lab as a second year School Psychology Ph.D. student in the Department of Health and Behavior Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. She earned a B.A. in Psychology from Hunter College in 2015, and has since broadened her clinical and research experience through direct work with children, adolescents, and young adults. Specifically, she has conducted comprehensive psychoeducational assessments in clinical and school settings, provides individual therapy to at-risk adolescents, and young adults, and led a support group as part of a research study on siblings of children diagnosed with autism. Having an interest in protective factors and cognitive reserve, she looks forward to participating in research exploring the variables that moderate the deleterious psychological effects of multiple sclerosis. When not engaging in academic work, Rosie enjoys taking dance classes, planning and hosting events for friends and family, and traveling around the world. For a detailed description of Rosie’s academic work, you can view her CV here.

Gabrielle Pelle: Clinical Research Coordinator

Gabrielle joins the MS team as a Senior Clinical Research Coordinator. Having recently graduated with her Masters in Experimental Psychology from Brooklyn College, she plans to successfully integrate her academic career with her experienced research history. Gabrielle was previously the Administrator and Clinical Research Coordinator of a private clinical research site, conducting multi-specialty Phase II-Phase IV industry sponsored clinical trials. Here at MSH she is a coordinator for our current lab’s project, as well as two other projects being conducted by faculty in the department. Gabrielle enjoys to travel, having most recently returned from an excursion to Costa Rica, as well as spoiling her new puppy Ava, participating in yoga in the park, and assisting friends and family with interior decorating. For a detailed description of Gabrielle’s academic work, you can view her CV here.

Christina Lewis: Associate Researcher/Lab Manager

Christina recently moved from San Diego, California, to join Dr. Sumowski’s lab as the Senior Research Coordinator for his new study on cognitive reserve in relapsing-remitting multiple scelorsis (RRMS). She comes from the UCSD Psychology Department, where she first earned a B.S in Clinical Psychology in 2014. She then went on to work as the lab manager for a cognitive neuroscience lab (Aronlab) in the department, as well a research coordinator at the Veterans Affairs Health System. Being passionate about pursuing both a research and clinical-treatment career in neurodegenerative disorders, she is excited to use her time in the lab to build her experience and knowledge before applying for graduate studies. In her personal time, Christina enjoys training in aerial circus arts, watching sci-fi and horror movies, and exploring as many different foods as she can. For a detailed description of Christina’s academic work, you can view her CV here.