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Kelly Ryan, Ph.D.

Clinical Lecturer, Neuropsychology Section, Department of Psychiatry

Dr. Ryan has always been fascinated with how brain changes can manifest as problematic behaviors, and specifically, how they can have devastating effects on one’s daily life. This led her to pursue a career in clinical neuropsychology. She obtained her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Wayne State University and she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Michigan. Her early research looked at how executive functioning (one’s ability to make decisions, solve problems, and plan and organize – all skills that are associated with the frontal region of the brain) created problems in everyday situations, such as driving a car, in patients with medical and neurological illness.

Since joining the faculty at the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry and the Prechter Bipolar Research Team three years ago, she has been exploring the role of executive functioning on important areas of life functioning, such as work functioning, among individuals with bipolar disorder. While she recognizes that there needs to be research efforts looking for risk factors, causes, and more effective treatment of symptoms in bipolar disorder, she finds that it is also crucial to understand what specific aspects of the disease – which can include psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects – interfere with leading a normal life.

It is Dr. Ryan’s hope that her research can lead to more tailored treatments, in addition to medication treatment. She believes that there should be a push to devise psychotherapy treatments or rehabilitation efforts to help those with bipolar disorder “get back on their feet” or regain previously good functioning.

The large-scale, long-term nature of the Prechter Longitudinal Study allows Dr. Ryan to examine important clinical, neuropsychological, genetic, and environmental factors over time among individuals with bipolar disorder to better understand which factors contribute to problems in everyday life. She finds that the Prechter Longitudinal Study is truly unique because it allows researchers the opportunity to study the naturalistic course of bipolar disorder from many different perspectives with the ultimate goal to find a cure.