Neuropsychologist

Melanie Stephens, PhD

Assistant Professor

Dr. Melanie Stephens is an Assistant Professor of Neuropsychology at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center within the Department of Neurology.

Jessica Foley, PhD, ABPP-CN

Clinical Neuropsychologist

Dr. Jessica M. Foley is a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Neurology who has served within the Memory and Aging Center of the UCSF Department of Neurology since 2014. Dr. Foley was awarded a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 2002, followed by PhD and PsyD degrees from Nova Southeastern University (2007) with a specialization in clinical neuropsychology. She completed predoctoral internship training specializing in neuropsychology at Brown Medical School Department of Psychiatry and postdoctoral fellowship training in neuropsychology at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neurosciences and Human Behavior. She previously (2009–2014) served as Neuropsychologist and Instructor of Psychiatry within the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry and the Boston VA Medical Center, where she functioned as the senior neuropsychologist within the Brockton division (specialized in the assessment of medically complex older adults). She also served as faculty within the Boston Consortium in Clinical Psychology and Training Leader for neuropsychology training within the geropsychology internship and fellowship programs.

Dr. Foley currently functions as an attending neuropsychologist within the Memory and Aging Center, in which capacity she serves a multidisciplinary team and performs neuropsychological evaluations for patients presenting with suspicion of neurodegenerative illness. She also performs comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations of adults with a variety of known or suspected neurologic illnesses through the Department of Neurology Adult Outpatient Neuropsychology Clinic. Dr. Foley also serves as a faculty mentor for neuropsychology students in training, supporting clinical and research skills among developing scientist-practitioners in clinical neuropsychology.

Dr. Foley’s primary research interest concerns preclinical detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions by exploring genetic, metabolic, and cognitive factors that predict brain white matter deterioration. An additional interest entails understanding factors that moderate cognitive and white matter changes in older adults with HIV-infection.

Christa Watson, PsyD

Neuropsychology Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Watson graduated from the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology-Stanford PsyD Consortium in 2014. She has a background in psychology, developmental biology, neuroimaging and neuropsychology. Her research interests include brain development across the lifespan. She is currently working on a pediatric HIV brain imaging study with Dr. Victor Valcour.

When she is not working, she enjoys spending time outdoors, watching movies, playing soccer, and listening to jazz. She strongly believes the Golden State Warriors will be the 2015 NBA Champions.

Virginia Sturm, PhD

Assistant Professor

Virginia Sturm, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center. After undergraduate work at Georgetown University, she received her PhD degree in clinical psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and subsequently completed her clinical internship and postdoctoral fellowship at UCSF. Her research centers on laboratory measurement of emotion and social behavior in patients with neurodegenerative disease.

Dr. Sturm directs the Clinical Affective Neuroscience (CAN) Laboratory located in the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and affiliated with the UCSF Center for Psychophysiology and Behavior (CPB).

Katherine P. Rankin, PhD

Professor & Neuropsychologist

Dr. Kate Rankin is a professor in the UCSF Department of Neurology who specializes in the neuropsychological, neuroanatomic, and genetic underpinnings of human socioemotional behavior in healthy aging and neurodegenerative disease. She studied psychology at Yale for her undergraduate work and received graduate degrees from Fuller School of Psychology in Pasadena, including her PhD degree in clinical psychology and a master’s degree in theology.

In her work at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, Dr. Rankin developed a comprehensive battery of tests to measure socioemotional functioning in cognitively impaired patients that was adopted at the national level by NIH Alzheimer’s Disease Coordinating Centers to improve diagnostic accuracy in diseases like behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia, semantic variant progressive aphasia, progressive supranuclear palsy, and corticobasal syndrome. Her research utilizes quantitative structural and functional brain image analysis to examine the neural substrates of empathy, theory of mind, personality, and the comprehension of social signals for sarcasm and deception.

She also has led the data/biostatistics and bioinformatics cores of a number of center grants and privately funded research consortia and specializes in the development of strategies for aggregating cross-disciplinary data across labs and institutions to facilitate scientific collaboration. Additionally, she is a leader in the UCSF-wide Precision Medicine Knowledge Network Initiative and advises on a number of UCSF committees and boards promoting digital health and the allocation of computational resources towards improving research and clinical care.

Kate Possin, PhD

Associate Professor of Neuropsychology

Dr. Possin is an Associate Professor of Neuropsychology at the Memory and Aging Center within the UCSF Department of Neurology. Dr. Possin’s research examines the neural bases of visual spatial and executive function impairments in neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and frontotemporal lobar degeneration. She develops cognitive assessment tools to support neurodegenerative disease diagnosis and monitoring, including virtual reality tests of navigation and tablet-based tools for clinical applications. Dr. Possin is the Principal Investigator of a Healthcare Innovations Award to develop and test the Care Ecosystem study, a continuous and personalized model of dementia care supported by innovative technologies. Her research is also funded by grants from the Global Brain Health Institute and the Administration for Community Living.

Kate Possin was awarded her PhD degree in clinical psychology from UCSD in 2007. During her training at UCSD, she studied cognitive changes associated with Parkinson’s disease. She completed her internship in clinical neuropsychology at UCSF in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology and her postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Neurology.

Joel Kramer, PsyD

Director of Neuropsychology

Dr. Kramer is a Professor of Neuropsychology in Neurology and the Director of the Memory and Aging Center Neuropsychology program. He earned his doctorate in psychology at Baylor University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in neuropsychology at the Martinez VA hospital. Dr. Kramer is board certified in clinical neuropsychology.

Dr. Kramer has been extensively involved in studying the cognitive changes associated with brain disorders for the past three decades. He has co-authored widely used neuropsychological measures of memory and executive functioning. Much of his work has been devoted to identifying the different ways in which aging and neurodegenerative diseases affect memory and other abilities and in utilizing these differences to improve differential diagnosis in clinic.

Presently, Dr. Kramer's active areas of research use neuroimaging, neuropsychology, neuroimmunology, and genetics to study the underlying biological mechanisms of cognitive aging, the cognitive effects of cerebrovascular disease and frontotemporal dementia, and the relationships between cognitive functioning, behavioral control, and reward systems.

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