BPP University School of Health welcomes guest speaker Dr. Jansari

BPP University School of Health Psychology Department recently welcomed Dr. Jansari from Goldsmiths, University of London, to our London Waterloo study centre. Dr. Jansari’s research explores a number of different aspects of cognitive neuropsychology, particularly memory/amesia, face recognition and assessment of executive functions.

In his latest talk with BPP University psychology students, Dr. Jansari titled his lecture ‘My Brain Made Me Do It: Using A New Ecologically-Valid Assessment Of Executive Functions To Investigate The Potential Involvement Of Head Injuries In Subsequent Criminal Behaviour’.

Recent research has suggested that many prisoner inmates have sustained a head injury during childhood or adolescence and in most cases, this is prior to committing their first offence (Wald & Helgeson, 2014). Many head injuries damage frontal brain regions which are still developing through adolescence and are not fully functional until the early twenties (Gogtay et al, 2004). Integrity of the frontal cortices is central to the Executive Functions (EFs) which are vital for appropriate decision-making and monitoring of everyday behaviour; an impairment in these abilities is evident in the inappropriate behaviour of offenders, who continue to engage in criminal activity in the face of known adverse risk to themselves and others. However measuring EFs objectively has been a subject of contention in the field particularly due to the lack of ecological-validity of the current assessments.

The Jansari assessment of Executive Functions (JEF©) is a new tool developed to address these issues using virtual reality and resembles playing a computer game. JEF© has been demonstrated to be sensitive for assessing adults with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) and also with different non-clinical populations (Jansari and colleagues, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014). Dr. Jansari’s talk gave an overview of executive functions, a background to JEF© and before moving into how it has been to compare EFs in ex-offenders and non-offenders. The results from this latter study suggest that important cognitive abilities are compromised in ex-offenders and this correlates with level of head injuries sustained during childhood which predated the first criminal act.

Given that in the UK, over 40% of ex-prisoners commit another crime within a year of being released, it will be suggested that JEF© could be used to reduce this level of recidivism. Since JEF© yields eight separate scores of EF these could be used to inform rehabilitation akin to that used in standard adult ABI work. These eight scores can be used to develop individualised EF profiles which can then be used to develop specific interventions tailored to suit the particular weaknesses of each ex-offender. It is hoped that in the long-run, the strategies learnt through this process will reduce the likelihood of the person falling into the ‘revolving door’ of recidivism and thereby have a huge benefit both to the individual and to society.

For the latest information on our guest speaker lectures, follow @BPPHealth on twitter and watch out for updates on our Facebook page, BPP University School of Health.

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