Jennifer Manly, Ph.D.
Jennifer Manly, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Neuropsychology in Neurology at the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center and the Taub Institute for Research in Aging and Alzheimer’s disease at Columbia University. Her research on cognitive test performance among African American and Hispanic elders is currently funded by the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association. Dr. Manly is currently a Council Representative for the American Psychological Association Division 40 (Clinical Neuropsychology) and has served on Division 40 governance sine 2001. She is the Chair of the Continuing Education Committee of the International Neuropsychological Society. She is an associate editor of the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, and is a consulting editor for several other journals, including Neuropsychology, The Clinical Neuropsychologist, the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, the Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, and Alzheimer’s Disease & Associated Disorders. She received Early Career Awards from both Division 40 of the American Psychological Association and from the National Academy of Neuropsychology, and in 2004 she was elected a Fellow of APA. Dr. Manly also serves on the National Board of the Alzheimer’ Association.
Cognitive test performance of African American elders.
Cognitive tests have poor specificity among minority populations and cannot reliably differentiate subtle impairment associated with the early stages of dementia from the effects of normal aging. Misdiagnosis of dementia is thus more likely among cognitively normal African Americans as compared to non-Hispanic Whites. I am directly addressing this problem by investigating the cultural and educational determinants of individual variation in neuropsychological test performance. Thus far, this work has identified aspects of cultural and educational experience that can be explicitly measured and has related these variables to test performance both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. In future years, we will identify the most accurate measures of quality of education and identify whether we can improve diagnostic accuracy (regardless of race) when taking these variables into account.
Literacy as a proxy for cognitive reserve.
Another research interest is whether literacy level is a more meaningful proxy for "cognitive reserve" than years of education or occupation among ethnically diverse elders. In a study of the relationship of literacy level to change in memory ability over time, I found that elders with both high and low levels of literacy declined in immediate and delayed memory over time; however, the decline was more rapid among low literacy elders. This suggests that high literacy skills do not provide complete preservation of memory skills but rather a slowing of age-related decline. We recently studied 1,193 English speaking elders who were not demented at the time of their initial study visit, and found that elders with low levels of literacy were 3 times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease at follow-up as compared to elders with high levels of literacy. In this study, we found that literacy was a stronger predictor of incident Alzheimer’s disease than years of education or race.
Literacy and working memory.
Neuropsychological studies of illiterates have led several researchers to propose that the acquisition of written language modulates the so-called phonological loop. However, prior research of my group and others has shown a profound effect of literacy on performance on a wide range of verbal and nonverbal cognitive tests. I am currently exploring whether the effect of literacy is primarily on the phonological loop (verbal short term memory), or whether it also has independent effects on other aspects of working memory, including visuospatial short-term memory.