Elizabeth Warrington FRS, is a British neuropsychologist specialized in the study of dementia. She holds a PhD in visual processing and is now an emeritus professor of clinical neuropsychology at the University College London. She formerly worked as the Head of the Department of Neuropsychology at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery where she is also a member of the Dementia Research Centre. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1986.
Dr. Elizabeth Warrington received her PhD in visual processing from the University College London in the 1950s. She worked for a time as the Head of Department of Neuropsychology at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, England. She is currently an emeritus professor of clinical neuropsychology for the University College London, specifically in the UCL Institute of Neurology. She is a member of the Dementia Research Centre associated with the University College London. Her research has focused on cognitive abilities, specifically the neurological basis of cognitive abilities, how the neural networks in the human brain work to perceive, remember, and talk about objects and events. She has participated in work on defining the differences between semantic memory and episodic memory which led to her identification of a new form of dementia, semantic dementia. She has published numerous tests and case studies and her work in these studies has been focused on diagnosing brain injuries. The tests she has developed can be used to help identify numerous types of brain damage including dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and brain injuries resulting from a stroke. Her tests may also be used to track the recovery of these patients and to plan rehabilitation programs for them.
In general, Elizabeth Warrington's research work focused on cognitive abilities and deficits. Her research has played an important role in the discovery and characterization of semantic dementia. She conducted extensive research in the areas of amnesia, memory, and dementia. Warrington has also contributed to the development of more accurate tests used to diagnose degenerative brain conditions.
In one of Warrington's earliest studies, she investigated eighty right handed patients who showed signs of a unilateral cerebral lesion. The unilateral cerebral lesions may have included damage from problems such as a stroke or tumor. Subjects with lesions affecting the right side of their brain performed worse than subjects with left side lesions and control subjects when attempting both the Incomplete Letters Task and the Gollin Incomplete Figures Task. The results of this study provided evidence of hemispheric lateralization.
Entirely by accident, Elizabeth Warrington discovered a task in which patients suffering from severe amnesia displayed signs of memory. She accomplished this using the Gollin incomplete figures task. When presenting patients with the second viewing of the figures, patients showed good retention of the initially unrecognizable images. These patients were classified as displaying signs of “normal” memory.
To further validate the discovery of “normal” memory in severe amnesiacs, Warrington used methods involving stem completion. The stem completion tests involved patients learning a battery of words, and later identifying the learned words. Patients were able to identify a previously learned word when presented with the first three letters, but were unable to identify a previously learned word when given the choice between a learned word and unknown word. These tests provided further evidence of different types of memory, now known as implicit memory and explicit memory.
In a test administered by Warrington and Tim Shallice from University College London, the short term memory of a patient who suffered head trauma following a motorcycle accident was tested. Although the patient displayed a digit span of one (as opposed to the average persons digit span of five to nine), he was able to form certain types of long term memory. The collected data suggested that short term memory was not necessarily required for the formation of long term memories.
Cognitive Functioning Tests
Elizabeth Warrington has conducted many ground breaking experiments and developed many cognitive functioning tests to measure a patient's cognitive abilities throughout her career. Warrington’s work is often credited with helping shape the basis of modern day cognitive psychology. Many of Warrington’s tests are still used today.
One of her most influential experiments is the Visual Object and Space Perception Battery, or the VOSP. This test was designed by Elizabeth Warrington and Merele James in 1991. The VOSP is used to help determine whether or not a lesion in the brain is causing impairments to object and space perception. This test limits other cognitive functions in order to assess certain aspects of object and space perception. The VOSP consists of eight untimed tests that are usually administered at a pace suitable for that particular patient. After completing eight tests, the scores are then compared to the scores of patients with right and left-cerebral lesions. This experiment is commonly used by psychologists today and has been featured in over 250 publications. The VOSP can be purchased from most online bookstores for around the price of 230.00 USD.>
Another test that is still in use is the Verbal and Spatial Reasoning Test also known as VESPAR. VESPAR is a test that was designed by Elizabeth Warrington and Dawn W. Langdon in 1996. VESPAR is a reasoning test that presents a fairly new approach in how reasoning tests are performed. This test is designed to measure the fluid intelligence in neurological patients. This test is unique in that it offers more accuracy than any other test available for this type of measurement. VESPAR is divided into six sections. There are three matched sets of verbal and spatial reasoning problems, where each is dedicated to one of three forms of inductive reasoning. This includes odd one out, by analogy, and series completion. VESPAR is able to overcome many restraints that arise when performing more conventional reasoning tests by using stimuli that is more readily accessed by patients who suffer from physical or cognitive impairments due to neurological illness. VESPAR does not use timing to help evaluate performance, instead it uses high frequency stimulus words or visually distinct spatial stimuli to help determine its results. VESPAR has a multiple choice format. This format has been adopted to reduce both short term memory load and output demands on the patient. The assessment of patients for neurodiagnostic and neurorehabilitation needs will be facilitated. VESPAR only requires the patient to do simple pointing gestures. The spatial section of the test measures the fluid intelligence of patients with aphasia. The verbal section does the same for patients with visual and spatial problems. VESPAR focuses more the instinctive ability of a patient, rather than educational experience. Thus, although originally developed for adult neurological populations, the test is suitable for a wide range of clinical, educational, occupational, and research applications. This test is also available for purchase at most online bookstores.
- Professor Elizabeth Warrington FRS - Cognition and behaviour, Warrington's profile on the Royal Society's website
- An interview with Warrington
- Elizabeth Warrington's profile on the UCL website
- An interview with Elizabeth Warrington
- Podcasts on iTunes
- "Professor Elizabeth Warrington", THE UCL CENTRE FOR THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE,accessed May 5, 2011.
- Gazzaniga, Michael. Cognitive Neuroscience : The Biology of The Mind. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009. ISBN 978-0-393-92795-5
- Thomas, Richard."Today's Neuroscience, Tomorrow's History: A Video Archive Project", THE UCL CENTRE FOR THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE,accessed May 5, 2011.
- "Visual Object and Space Perception Battery (VOSP)"
- "Verbal Reasoning"