Amy Halpin

Amy joined the Penn FTD Center in July 2015 as a research specialist. You might see Amy when you come in to participate in research or a clinical trial, so let’s get to know her a little better!

Amy grew up in upstate New York, near the Adirondack Mountains. She went to college in Boston, Massachusetts at Boston University, earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Physiology. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree at Drexel University here in Philadelphia and ultimately hopes to become a clinical neuropsychologist. Amy’s research interests include empathy, disinhibition, and apathy in FTD and the caregiver burdens associated with these behavioral changes.

In her spare time, Amy loves staying active, whether it’s going for a bike ride or doing yoga. Amy is even a proud finisher of the New York City marathon! She can also be found hanging out with her two dogs, who she rescued from a shelter in Virginia. Amy has a hound named Cubby and a pit bull named Grace.

So, what should you expect if you come in for cognitive testing with Amy? Amy says testing typically lasts between one and two hours, and there is no reason to be nervous! Sometimes the tests will feel very easy, and sometimes the tests will feel more challenging. If you get tired, you can always take a break to rest and chat with Amy!

Ethan Kotloff

Ethan is an undergraduate here at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in the Biological Basis of Behavior. He’s now a senior, and has been interning at the Penn FTD Center since the spring of 2015.

As an intern, Ethan has been working with our postdoctoral researcher, Yune-Sang Lee. Ethan describes Yune as a dedicated and wonderful mentor, who introduced him to the research process.

Together, Yune and Ethan are investigating language comprehension in healthy older adults. They find that the typical hearing loss that comes with aging can strain the cognitive systems involved in language comprehension, especially when sentences are syntactically complex. With poor hearing, the extra effort it takes to listen interferes with comprehension, even when one can correctly hear all the words in the sentence! However, Yune and Ethan find that older adults poor hearing will compensate for this extra effort by using a strategy that is “good enough”; instead of carefully parsing a sentence, they will rely on plausibility to interpret the meaning. For example, if they hear “The dog that was usually chained to the fence was bitten by the tall and stylish man”, poor hearing adults are more likely to assume that the dog bit the man, even though the sentence stated that the man bit the dog. While imperfect, using plausibility as a strategy is less cognitively and perceptually demanding for older adults.

Originally from Elkins Park, PA, Ethan is a big Philly sports fan. His biggest love is for basketball, and he describes himself as probably “the most optimistic 76ers fan”. Outside of the lab, Ethan also tutors for the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project. Now that he’s done with all his course requirements, Ethan looks forward to spending his senior year living with 5 of his friends and taking interesting classes outside his field. After he graduates, Ethan will begin applying to medical school, and he hopes to continue exploring his interests in a research position or by shadowing a doctor.