May 6, 2024

Prechter Program Graduate Student Defends Dissertation

Margo Menkes, Ph.D., a Prechter Program graduate student in the Clinical Science Ph.D. Program defended her dissertation on executive function and bipolar disorder.

Margo with Dr. Melvin McInnis and Dr. Patty Deldin – her chair and co-chair. 

Margo Menkes, Ph.D., a graduate student with the Prechter Program recently defended her dissertation, "Error-related brain activity and executive function in individuals with bipolar disorder." 

This project aimed to help us learn more about the brain mechanisms that contribute to the difficulties people with bipolar disorder experience in managing behavior and emotions. This involved using electroencephalography (EEG) to record electrical brain signals while people completed computerized tasks. These tasks involved seeing shapes on a screen (i.e., arrows) and clicking a button as quickly as possible to indicate the direction it was pointing, while ignoring distracting information on the sides of the screen. The research found that individuals with bipolar disorders showed reduced brain activity right after making an error (compared to healthy individuals without psychiatric illness). This may reflect challenges in recognition of having made a mistake for people with bipolar disorder, which can then lead to difficulty adjusting behavior accordingly to adapt to the situation. Researchers also found these brain signals are linked to how individuals perform on tests of executive function. These findings add to the evidence for a brain-level basis for some of the key difficulties individuals with bipolar disorder experience, such as with managing behavior. These results will be very useful as researchers learn more about new interventions that target the brain to improve cognitive abilities, such as the ability to correct errors as they arise.

Margo worked alongside research and clinical staff members of the Prechter Program doing research participant interviews, working as a practicum student in the Bipolar Clinic with Dr. Sarah Sperry, and in BRSCr Research. Margo will begin her clinical residency at the University of Maryland Medical Center this summer.