Dr. Natalie Phillips is a Professor in the Department of Psychology, Concordia University, and holds the Concordia University Research Chair (Tier 1) in Sensory-Cognitive Health in Aging and Dementia. She is a licensed clinical neuropsychologist. Dr. Phillips examines the neuropsychology of healthy aging and Alzheimer disease. She studies the relationship between our senses (hearing, vision, olfaction) and our cognitive abilities and how these relate to dementia risk and quality of life. She also studies language processing in older adults, including those who are bilingual. Dr. Phillips is one of the principal developers of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), a cognitive screening instrument used around the world for the assessment of mild cognitive impairment. She is the Associate Scientific Director of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA, http://ccna-ccnv.ca/en/), which is Canada’s national research consortium on dementia. She is the founding leader of CCNA Team 17 (http://ccnateam17.ca/), which examines issues of sensory health and cognitive function in older adults, including person with dementia.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Sensory Function and Cognition
Aging and Dementia
Dalhousie University: Ph.D., Clinical Psychology 1996
Dalhousie University: B.S., Psychology 1987
Dalhousie University: M.A., Psychology 1990
Media Appearances (2)
Bilingualism could offset brain changes in Alzheimer’s, research shows
Concordia University News online
A new Concordia study goes further, however, focusing specifically on the effects of knowing a second language for patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI; a risk state for AD). “Most of the previous research on brain structure was conducted with healthy younger or older adults,” says Natalie Phillips, a professor in the Department of Psychology.
Concordia’s Natalie Phillips examines the link between cognition and hearing or vision loss
Concordia University News online
A recent study led by Montreal researchers asks why this relationship exists. Concordia’s Natalie Phillips and her colleagues found that poor hearing especially was linked to declines in memory and executive function in otherwise relatively healthy, autonomous, community-dwelling older adults...
Featured Articles (7)
A behavioural and electrophysiological investigation of the effect of bilingualism on aging and cognitive controlNeuropsychologia
Given previous, but inconsistent, findings of language group differences on cognitive control tasks the current investigation examined whether such differences could be demonstrated in a sample of older bilingual adults. Monolingual and bilingual older adults performed three cognitive control tasks that have previously been used in the literature (i.e., Stroop, Simon and flanker tasks) while brain electrophysiological recordings took place.
The Implications of Cognitive Aging for Listening and the Framework for Understanding Effortful Listening (FUEL)Ear and Hearing
2016 This review article considers some of the age-related changes in cognition that are likely to interact with hearing, listening effort, and cognitive energy. The focus of the review is on normative age-related changes in cognition; however, consideration is also given to older adults who experience clinically significant deficits in cognition, such as persons with Alzheimer’s disease or who may be in a preclinical stage of dementia (mild cognitive impairment).
Hearing impairment and cognitiveenergy: A framework for understanding effortful listening (FUEL)Ear and Hearing
2016 The Fifth Eriksholm Workshop on “Hearing Impairment and Cognitive Energy” was convened to develop a consensus among interdisciplinary experts about what is known on the topic, gaps in knowledge, the use of terminology, priorities for future research, and implications for practice. The general term cognitive energy was chosen to facilitate the broadest possible discussion of the topic. It goes back to Titchener (1908) who described the effects of attention on perception; he used the term psychic energy for the notion that limited mental resources can be flexibly allocated among perceptual and mental activities.
The auditory-visual speech benefit on working memory in older adults with hearing impairmentFrontiers in Psychology
This study examined the effect of auditory-visual (AV) speech stimuli on working memory in older adults with poorer-hearing (PH) in comparison to age- and education-matched older adults with better hearing (BH). Participants completed a working memory n-back task (0- to 2-back) in which sequences of digits were presented in visual-only (i.e., speech-reading), auditory-only (A-only), and AV conditions.
Sensory-cognitive associations are only weakly mediated or moderated by social factors in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on AgingScientific Reports
Sensory and cognitive function both tend to decline with increasing age. Sensory impairments are risk factors for age-related cognitive decline and dementia. One hypothesis about sensory-cognitive associations is that sensory loss results in social isolation which, in turn, is a risk factor for cognitive decline.
Clinical Judgment Is Paramount When Performing Cognitive Screening during COVID‐19Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
Rudi Coetzer1 has provided thoughtful first impressions on the nonstandardized use of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)2 with inpatients during the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID‐19) pandemic. Our goal is to continue a dialogue on how to engage in best practices for bedside and/or emergency department cognitive screening under these challenging conditions. Our take‐home message is that cognitive assessment is as much a process as an outcome. Both Dr. Coetzer's and our experience shows that current hospital environments are often noisy, with space and time pressures. The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) may degrade sensory cues to communication. COVID‐19 disproportionately affects frail and vulnerable people and may exacerbate sleep deprivation and increase delirium. These factors can compound and likely affect cognitive performance itself and cognitive testing procedures and interpretation.
Special Issues on Using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment for telemedicine Assessment During COVID‐19Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) crisis has accelerated the need for cognitive screening adapted to telemedicine. Understandably, clinicians are trying to use tools in hand. As codevelopers of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA1), we have received inquiries on whether and how to adapt the test, what norms are available, and how to validly assess older adults with hearing and/or vision loss. There are modified MoCA versions, including one for telephone administration2 and some that omit visual or auditory items with validated cutoff scores.3, 4 The MoCA website issued an e‐mail (March 20, 2020) stating that it has been validated for remote testing. To our knowledge, there are no published validated remote testing adaptations with norms for key groups of interest, including those with assessed sensory abilities. Telephone‐alone and videoconference (ie, remote) administrations present special challenges.