I started my career as a Developmental Psycho-biologist, one who studied the relationship between brain development and the emergence of behavior disorders. My specialty was studying attention mechanisms in children diagnosed with hyperactivity and attention deficits. My interest has always focused on interactions between neural mechanisms and clinical (or psychosocial) determinants of human behavior. For many years I taught neuroscience lab courses along with courses on development. From 1995 to 2003 I was Dean of the Faculty and spent one semester as Acting President of the College. My experience in administration further taught me how important it is to view my field within the perspective of the liberal arts.
I now teach a course on the culture and history of psychiatry. This course surveys psychiatry’s evolution, with special emphasis on the major contributions that have changed perspectives and directions in psychiatric medicine drawing upon neurological and medical, as well as psychological and psychodynamic, points of view. I also teach courses in Psychopathology and Abnormal Psychology, again presenting multifaceted perspectives (neurological as well as psychodynamic) on understanding human behavior. My other interest is the psychology of aging, an area in which I have been teaching for 30 years. In my class The Psychology of Aging we discuss the biological and psychological changes that occur with aging; we review the scientific literature that assesses the effects of aging on memory, intelligence, cognition, physical health, and social relationships.
In addition we read literary texts and poems, and view films that portray the aging experience. Another requirement for Psych 36 is that each student visits, weekly, an elderly individual in the town of Amherst to offer help, and to learn firsthand about the physical and psychological matters that senior citizens face.
My most recent project examines attitudes towards and practices in the use of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) for psychiatric treatment, in particular for major depression and schizoaffective disorders. I’m interested in the differences between the use of ECT in Italy and in the United States. In the U.S., ECT has become an accepted method of treatment for seriously depressed and psychotic patients whose illnesses have otherwise been resistant to both medications and psychotherapy, yet this technique has effectively been banned in Italy. The research focuses on why this is so.
For the past dozen years I have chaired the board of the Austen Riggs Center, a nonprofit residential psychiatric hospital for treatment-resistant patients in Stockbridge, Mass.
I have also taught for three years in the clinical graduate program at UMass; in addition, I am currently continuing my education in psychoanalytic theory.
Ph.D., 1979, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, Psychology and Neuroscience
M.A., 1977, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, Psychology
B.A., 1975, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York