DIMENSIONS Summer 2001


by Julie Cleveland

Dr. Monique Cherrier is an acting assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and has been working at the UW since the fall of 1997. Dr. Cherrier's work is both varied and engaging; her days are filled with clinical, research and teaching responsibilities.

Dr. Cherrier performs neuropsychological assessments at the University of Washington Medical Center's neuropsychology lab. The lab gets referrals from all over the hospital whenever there is a question relating to the brain. This includes anything from head injuries, multiple sclerosis, or transplant patients, to older people who are concerned with their memory and want to know whether or not it is "normal." She also supervises residents and postdocs in regard to psychotherapy and neuropsychological assessment.

Dr. Cherrier is the principal investigator on a hormone and cognition study examining androgen effects on cognition, which is funded by the National Institute on Aging. This study is looking testosterone affects thinking in older men; both healthy and those with Alzheimer's disease. Reports of this study are due to be published in Neurology this month (volume 57, pages 80-88). In this study, men received either 100 mg of testosterone a week for 6 weeks, or placebo. The men were given a series of cognitive tests before they started taking testosterone and twice while they were on the medication. The study found that when the treated men's hormone levels were up to about the range of a healthy young man, there was an improvement in their spatial memory, improved verbal memory (hearing a short story and remembering it later), and an improved ability to construct complex figures using blocks. Spatial memory was measured through a series of cognitive tests--the most unique one being the 'route test', which was created by Cherrier and her colleagues. The route test measures a person's ability to remember a certain route by following a pattern marked on the floor, and then testing the person's memory of the route. The study found an improved ability to remember the exact sequence of the route. Cherrier says, "Route testing is important because when the person starts wandering it usually indicates that they require full-time care. So if we can find anything that helps ameliorate that symptom, it would be great stress relief to caregivers."

Dr. Cherrier also collaborates with Drs. Jim Leverenz and Tom Bird on ongoing ADRC studies looking at the neuropsychological characterization of unusual types of dementia, such as frontal temporal dementia or Lewy body disease. When not in the office, Dr. Cherrier's life is as varied and engaging as her work. Her current passions include mountaineering, ice and alpine climbing, snowboarding and cycling. She has trekked in several countries including New Zealand, Switzerland and Australia. She has also spent a week cycling in France, and completed the Seattle to Portland bike race last year.

The part that Dr. Cherrier enjoys most about her work is the creative aspect. "I've always loved psychology and cognition--how people think, and what affects thinking abilities. So I enjoy both the process of designing studies to test out hypotheses, and also the creative process of designing tests to measure very specific aspects of cognition," she says.

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