Dr. Ryan has always been fascinated with how changes in the brain can manifest as problematic behaviors, and specifically, how they can contribute to problems in one’s daily life. This led her to pursue a career in clinical neuropsychology. She obtained her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Wayne State University and she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Michigan. She is board certified in Clinical Neuropsychology. Her early research looked at how executive functioning (one’s ability to make decisions, solve problems, and plan and organize — all skills that are associated with the frontal region of the brain) creates problems in everyday situations, such as driving a car or interacting with others, in patients with neurological illness.
As faculty in the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry and one of the investigators within the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program, she explores the role of executive functioning on important areas of life functioning, such as work, among individuals with bipolar disorder. While she recognizes that there need to be research efforts looking for risk factors, causes, and more effective treatment of symptoms in bipolar disorder, she finds that it is also crucial to understand what specific aspects of the disease — which can include psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects — interfere with leading a normal life. She is using mobile technology (smartphones) to capture real-time measurements of mood, cognition, and daily functioning to help identify individuals at future risk for disability and develop personalized and preventative strategies. She uses other mobile technology as a way to implement self-monitoring tools in patients with bipolar disorder and to help identify impending mood episodes.
The large-scale, long-term nature of the Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder allows Dr. Ryan to examine important clinical, neuropsychological, genetic, and environmental factors over time among individuals with bipolar disorder to better understand which factors contribute to problems in everyday life. She finds that the Longitudinal Study is truly unique because it allows researchers the opportunity to study the naturalistic course of bipolar disorder from many different perspectives with the ultimate goal to find a cure.
Dr. Ryan has published over 45 peer-reviewed articles in the field of neuropsychology and chronic illness, presented at national and international scientific conferences, is actively involved in educational pursuits of trainees, and enjoys collaborating with researchers across departments.