Course Title: Plenary E - Centering Social Justice and Public Health in Neuropsychology (Manly)


Credit Hours: 1


Instructor(s) Jennifer Manly


Jennifer Manly, PhD
Professor of Neuropsychology in Neurology
Taub Institute for Research in Alzheimer’s Disease & the Aging Brain
Columbia University

Plenary E:


Centering Social Justice and Public Health in Neuropsychology

Abstract & Learning Objectives:

Neuropsychological science and practice have primarily operated in settings that have limited applicability to the world’s diverse population. This narrow focus is inconsistent with the fundamental principles of our field, which include understanding the brain’s flexible adaptation to different contexts, and the neural and environmental mechanisms underlying behavior among all people, not just a select, privileged few. I will discuss how using social justice as an organizing principle for neuropsychological research and clinical assessment can richly enhance and accelerate gain of scientific knowledge and improve public health. A social justice framework must first recognize barriers to entry into our field for trainees from underrepresented backgrounds. Centering scientific questions within a brain health justice framework creates opportunities for underrepresented trainees to develop innovative ideas that build on their own experiences. A social justice framework also reveals how neuropsychological data have been used to maintain racial and social inequalities. I will describe an alternate approach of forming equal partnerships with representative research participants that has produced rigorous study designs and outcomes that reveal the potential impact of neuropsychology on public health and policy. I will present lessons learned from interdisciplinary research that has linked cognitive aging trajectories to lifecourse social exposures, such as structural racism, educational experiences, immigration, bilingualism, occupational opportunities, neighborhood investment, and residential segregation. Neuropsychology can provide the intellectual tools for building policies that address the fundamental determinants of brain health, promote fair distribution of resources, and eliminate disparities.


Upon conclusion of this course, learners will be able to:

  • Describe how a social justice framework can benefit neuropsychological research and practice
  • Identify methods to determine causal relationships between social forces across the lifecourse and disparities in cognitive function in aging
  • Describe approaches to address barriers to a diverse neuropsychology work force and explain why this is fundamental to innovation in our field

Speaker Biography:

Dr. Jennifer Manly is a Professor of Neuropsychology in Neurology at the Taub Institute for Research in Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University. Her research focuses on mechanisms of disparities in cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s Disease. In order to do this research, her research team has partnered with the Black and Latinx communities around CUIMC and around the country to design and carry out investigations of social factors across the lifecourse, such as educational opportunities, racism and discrimination, and socioeconomic status, and how these factors relate to cognition and brain health later in life. Her service to INS includes Program Chair, Continuing Education Chair, Member-at-Large, and Publications and Communications Chair. She was the recipient of the Paul Satz INS Career Mentoring Award in 2020. She served on the US Department of Health and Human Services Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care and Services from 2011 – 2015 and is a member of the National Advisory Council on Aging.