Penn State Hershey ALS Clinic and Research Center - Our Team

Claire Flaherty, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Neurology
Clinical Neuropsychologist

 

Department/Institute/Center(s):

  • Neurology

 

Contact Information:

  • Office Location: 30 Hope Drive

 

Biographical Information:

After completing her doctorate in Clinical Neuropsychology from the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, Dr. Flaherty-Craig completed her post-doctoral training at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. She has been affiliated with the Department of Neurology since 1992. Her experience has included 8 years as a team member of the in-patient adult neurorehabilitation unit, where she gained expertise with assessment and intervention approaches to optimize functioning following acquired disorders of cognition and affect. As an ALS team member, her focus is on cognitive evaluation and patient/family education to optimize both communication and emotional adjustment.

 

Research Interests:

I am a clinical neuropsychologist  with research interests in neurodevelopmental  disorders, epilepsy, and dementia in association with neurodegenerative conditions including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Alzheimer's Disease and Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration.

As an assistant professor, my responsibilities as a member of the faculty of an academic teaching hospital include scientific research and teaching, as well as patient care. I also manage other community and academic service and administrative work responsibilities. My research pursuits are focused on clarification of the underlying mechanisms of the neurological conditions presented by my patients, who come from the pediatric, adult and geriatric populations. My research goals are focused on the expansion of scientific knowledge of the mechanisms underlying brain-behavior relationships, with an emphasis on application toward more effective rehabilitation approaches.  My approach to rehabilitation is focused on identification of relative strengths, with patient-family education provided to optimize functioning and overall quality of life.

My clinical interests are in neurodevelopmental disorders, epilepsy, stroke, and neurodegenerative conditions such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Frontotemporal Dementia, Huntington's Disease, Alzheimer Disease, and associated dementias. As a rehabilitation sub-specialist, one of my principal clinical responsibilities is to educate patient and family members in approaches to rehabilitation following acquired changes to cognition or affect. I take a cognitive-behavioral approach to acquired changes in cognition, although I am also trained in insight oriented approaches to psychology and can apply an eclectic approach when it appears warranted. I place particular emphasis on the development of creative approaches to remediation of acquired changes in emotional processing, which can often take the form of lost insight to self, lost insight to others, and lost capacity for empathy.

My research interests are concentrated in five general areas. Subjects recruited for studies include individuals who have never had a brain disorder, children with neurodevelopmental conditions such as Asperger's Syndrome [high functioning autism] and sensory integration deficits, individuals with epilepsy, individuals with neurodegenerative disorders such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Myotonic Dystrophy, or Huntington's Disease and people with brain injury, such as that resulting from stroke, head trauma, or toxic exposure.

I study:

  • Early stage dementia to characterize changes in executive functioning and how they affect successful implementation of treatment goals.
  • Acquired changes in awareness, decision making and social judgment in adult patients with brain disorders.
  • Developmental disabilities with an emphasis of development of innovative approaches to remediation for application in the classroom and the home.
  • Epilepsy as a disorder of enhanced (as opposed to diminished) neurological activity and its affect on the integrity of executive functioning, including personality.
  • Neuropsychological rehabilitation in individuals with brain disorders within the domains of:
    • executive functioning, including cognition, affect and personality
    • visuospatial perception
    • language processing
    • memory
    • sensorimotor functioning underlying skilled learned purposive movements


Current Research Projects

Incidence and characterization of Frontotemporal Dementia in individuals with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (Lou Gehrig's Disease)
Acquired changes in capacities for abstract reasoning, decision making and social judgment in ALS in the presence of Frontotemporal Dementia
Incidence and characterization of Frontotemporal Dementia in individuals with Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1
The relationship between pituitary dysfunction and neuropsychological change in DM-1
Effect of radiation on neurodevelopment in pediatric cancer patients following brain tumor surgery. A multi-center longitudinal research study coordinated by the Children's Oncology Group (COG)

Clinical Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience EC2080 - 717 531-1804.
    Dr. Claire Flaherty-Craig, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Neurology

    Daymond Wagner, MA, ABD Research Associate (part time)
    EC2820
    717-531-1804

   Travis Haines, BS, PSU Harrisburg Master Degree Intern (Epilepsy)
    
   Christina Savage,  BS,  PSU Harrisburg Neuropsychology Clinical Assistant (part time)

For Your Information

If you have a neurological condition that has affected your cognitive or emotional state and would like to volunteer to take part in a research study:

Thank you for your generosity! You can contact me or my laboratory assistants to discuss eligibility for current ongoing research. My telephone number is 717 531-1804 and the laboratory number (research assistant Daymond Wagner is 717 531-1804. We apologize in advance if it takes a day or two to return your call.

For questions about a cognitive, emotional or behavioral condition:

Specific questions are necessarily addressed following a clinic evaluation, as the conditions of most patients are much too complex to provide a professional opinion or suggestions for rehabilitation for individual patients by letter or electronic mail when I have not actually evaluated the person in my clinic. This is an institutional policy that I totally support in my commitment to maintain the highest standards as an ethical, competent professional.

I may be able to make general statements about a disorder, or direct you to agencies that can provide you with information as well as involvement in appropriate support groups.

You should be aware that electronic mail is not a private or secure means of communication.

If you have sent me an electronic mail communication and have not received a response, I apologize. It is likely that I am either unavailable or that there is a technical problem interfering with our electronic communication. Communication by letter may be a preferable method.

For information about obtaining a clinical appointment:

Medicare and most managed care insurance providers require a referral from a neurologist. Please consult with your insurance provider prior to seeking an appointment. Your neurologist or primary care provider's staff can call clinical scheduling at 717 531-3828. In order to assess you and give meaningful recommendations I will need you to bring with you to the clinic visit (more reliable than having these sent ahead):

  • all hospital and doctor records relating to your problem/diagnosis
  • copies of all previous blood testing relating to your problem/diagnosis
  • a list of your current medications, including dosages
  • actual copies of films of any brain images done to evaluate your problem/diagnosis (a paper with a paragraph reporting the result is not enough)


Your doctor may need to provide some of this information before you are seen, in order to schedule the appointment. I recommend that you still bring copies with you in case the information is somehow lost before I see you.

 

 

 

Claire Flaherty, Ph.D.

 

Related Links:

 

Media interested in contacting the above person should contact the Office of Marketing and Communications at 717-531-8606.