Clinical Neuropsychology (Specialty in epilepsy, and extensions to other medical conditions)
Behavioural Neuroscience (Specialty in music neurocognition)
Epilepsy (Mood surrounding epilepsy and its treatment)
Clinical neuropsychology: psychosocial and cognitive aspects of medical illness and treatment outcome (including epilepsy, narcolepsy, cardiac surgery, aquired brain injury, cerebral aneurysm)
The neurobiological basis of mood and sexual functioning; quality of life research
Behavioural neuroscience: pitch perception, music cognition and memory; musical ability and expertise, amusia
Methodologies of interest: qualitative research
Structural and functional neuroimaging
Music Research Laboratory
Music, Auditory Cognition and Mind (MACAM) Research Group
Sarah is an Associate Professor & Reader in Psychological Sciences and an Adjunct Senior Fellow in the Department of Medicine at The University of Melbourne. She also holds the positions of Senior Clinical Neuropsychologist (MAPS, CCN) and Director of Neuropsychological Research at Austin Health, as well as Research Fellow in the Florey Neuroscience Institutes (FNI). She is the leader of two successful research programs that advance the study of brain and behaviour in: (1) clinical neuropsychology, with a specialty in epilepsy and its psychosocial outworkings, and (2) behavioural neuroscience, with a specialty in music neurocognition. To support her research programs, she has been successful in attracting over $3 million in funding from nationally competitive sources (ARC, NHMRC), philanthropic, university, and industry bodies. In total, she has 78 peer-reviewed publications, including 57 scientific journal articles, 7 book chapters, 1 report, and 13 full-length conference proceedings, as well as 49 peer-reviewed abstracts.
The quality of Sarah’s work in epilepsy is particularly noted for its innovative methodology that has allowed difficulties inherent in previous research to be resolved through approaches that are comprehensive and robust. This has included use of a phenomenological approach to: (i) characterise adjustment, cognitive, and psychosocial functioning of patients at the time of epilepsy diagnosis and initial treatment, (ii) follow patients longitudinally over several years to capture trajectories from diagnosis to the evolution of chronic epilepsy, allowing predictors of adjustment and outcome to be identified, (iii) characterise adjustment and outcome following major neurosurgical treatment of chronic epilepsy again by following patients over many years, including identification of the burden of normality. This approach has been employed with both paediatric and adult epilepsy cohorts in community and acute health care settings.
I am a Clinical Neuropsychologist and research scientist with a particular interest in the interrelationships between brain processes, cognition and behaviour, and their psychosocial outworkings. This interest has issued two lines of research into the study of brain and behaviour that inform clinical practice: (1) clinical neuropsychology, with a specialty in epilepsy and extensions to other medical conditions such as acquired brain injury and autism, and (2) behavioural neuroscience, with a specialty in music neurocognition.
The first arm of my research profile investigates the health outcomes and psychosocial functioning of patients following major medical treatments for chronic illness, such as epilepsy surgery. It has led to the development of a new model of psychosocial adjustment that has subsequently been extended to other medical conditions, such as narcolepsy and cardiac disease.
The second arm of my research profile investigates the influence of genetic and environmental factors in effecting morphological and functional changes in the brain (cortical plasticity) and the relationship of these changes to cognitive skill development across different domains. My particular interest lies in the auditory domain, focusing on the development of musical abilities and expertise and their neurobiological basis, the effect of brain injury on the performance of musicians (amusia), the effect of brain injury on music performance (amusia) and the use of music to facilitate cerebral recovery.