Updates from Around the World

COVID-19 is affecting everyone, right across the world. It is not surprising, then, that practice, research, and teaching of neuropsychology have been substantially disrupted. The INS Global Engagement Committee (GEC) is concerned with supporting development of neuropsychology around the world, and particularly in countries where neuropsychology is less well developed.  Members of the GEC from across the world have been discussing how practice, research and teaching are being affected, the issues that members are dealing with, and some of the creative solutions being implemented. Here are a few examples from GEC members that reflect a little of what is happening around the world.

In GEC discussions, Dr. Alberto Fernandez (Argentina), Dr. Alia Ammar (United Arab Emirates), Professor Skye McDonald (Australia), Dr. Natalia Ojeda del Pozo (Spain), Dr. Aparna Dutt (India), Dr. Lingani Mbakile-Mahlanz (Botswana), Dr. Leandro Malloy-Diniz (Brazil), Dr Taina Nybo (Finland) and Dr. Elizabeth Kera (US and Croatia) all mentioned that the question of how best to use teleneuropsychology is being explored in their countries. Clearly this is a topic that is exercising the whole neuropsychology community just now.

In addition to remote neuropsychological assessment, people are trying to work out how to provide neuropsychological rehabilitation remotely. In this area the work from colleagues in Australia is particularly important. Rene Stolwyk, Dana Wong, Jennie Ponsford and their colleagues in Melbourne have been using telehealth approaches to cognitive rehabilitation. The Australian Centre for Research Excellence in Aphasia, at La Trobe University in Melbourne has developed a website aimed at helping people with aphasia during COVID-19. Also, Professor Skye McDonald’s team at the University of New South Wales has developed set of resources to help families coping with a family member with challenging behaviour. This is a set of seven modules that families can work through and is freely available from Professor McDonald’s webpages.
In Brazil, Dr. Leandro Malloy-Diniz has worked with interdisciplinary colleagues to produce a paper in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry on the wider psychological and mental health issues associated with COVID-19, discussing the public health challenges of changing, or nudging, the behaviour of populations of people who need to distance themselves from each other; the impact of social isolation on the general population and particularly those with existing mental health difficulties; and the importance of supporting the mental health of health workers. The article is freely available online here: http://www.bjp.org.br/details/945
In Finland, Dr. Taina Nybo reported that at Helsinki University Hospital, which is the largest hospital in Finland and largest neuropsychology unit (about 40 neuropsychologists) they have been working to improve remote contacts with patients.  All rehabilitation patients are offered a remote contact and the team is developing digital neuropsychological rehabilitation pathways for people with mild-moderate acquired brain injury.
In Spain, the Neuropsychological Society in Madrid has created a webpage (http://www.neurocontigo.org) to provide advice to patients and families and some companies are offering their online cognitive rehabilitation services free of charge, so patients can access from home. Patient associations are organising to offer recommendations, relevant manuals and more informal tips. For example, children diagnosed with Autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders are wearing a big blue ribbon or blue T shirt so that they can go outside their houses and walk for a while to relieve distress and help the children deal with the isolation.
In the United Arab Emirates, Dr. Alia Ammar noted, neuropsychologists may be worried about the validity of assessments if they deviate from standard practice, but of course interpretations are often having to take account of contextual information – she notes that in the US she used to have to take account of patients being distracted by helicopters landing at the adjacent trauma heliport, and since moving to the United Arab Emirates has to take account of the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer coming from loudspeakers at adjacent mosques.
In the United Kingdom, the British Psychological Society Division of Neuropsychology Professional Standards Unit is developing a set of guidelines for remote assessment, with particular discussion of the issues associated with the assessment of children, people with intellectual disability and older adults including those with dementia. Similar guidelines have been, or in the process of, being put together in other countries.
In the United States, Drs. Munro Cullum and Ken Podell participated in a webcast moderated by Drs. Yakeel Quiroz, Cady Block and Nick Puente. Dr. Michelle Prosje developed a video on mental health effects of COVID.  In Brazil, Dr. Malloy-Diniz discussed online assessment resources as part of a ‘Saturday Night Live’ webinar attended by over 800 participants.