Harvard undergraduate teams up with Dr. Valera at the HMS to help validate neuropsychological test used with victims of intimate partner violence

From left to right. Julia Daugherty, PhD Student, Psychology, Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain; Dr. Eve Valera, Assistant

Diana Wang, Harvard College Class of 2020, is teaming up with Dr. Eve Valera, HMS Faculty, and Julia Daugherty, Universidad de Granada, to validate an English version of a test designed to assist with interpretation of neuropsychological tasks to be used with victims of intimate partner violence (IPV). Ms. Daugherty has joined Dr. Valera’s lab to complete a research stay learning about traumatic brain injury in IPV as part of her PhD degree. Ms. Wang’s project within the lab will help in the validation process of an international battery designed specifically for victims of IPV.

Dr. Valera’s research is aimed at shedding light on the “silent epidemic” of traumatic brain injuries in IPV.  While working in the lab, both Ms. Wang and Daugherty will learn about the sequelae of IPV-related brain injuries via a combination of assessment methodologies including neuroimaging, neuropsychological testing, semi-structured interviews, and a variety of questionnaires. Despite the high prevalence and importance of understanding IPV-related brain injuries, Dr. Valera has conducted the only neuroimaging work in this area to date. This team, as well as current collaborations with the lab both nationally and internationally, is working to provide much needed research for this very poorly understood and understudied area.  Please visit her website (https://www.martinos.org/lab/valera) or contact Dr. Valera directly if you are interested in learning how you can be a part of this program of research.

Dr. Valera obtained her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and completed her clinical internship at the Boston VA Medical Center Consortium.  She went on to obtain postdoctoral training in Neuroscience and Clinical Neuropsychology in the Clinical Research Training Program at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Mental Health Center/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Postdoctoral program. 

Dr. Valera is currently Director of the Valera Lab, an Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and a Research Scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Valera has been working in the field of domestic violence for nearly 25 years, initially directing and teaching a child abuse prevention program and then working with battered women’s and homeless shelters to understand the prevalence and sequelae of intimate partner-violence (IPV) related traumatic brain injury (TBI) and strangulation. She published the first study of systematically collected data examining the prevalence of IPV-related TBI and its relationship to cognitive and psychological functioning and has gone on to collect neuroimaging brain scans in victims of IPV in order to better understand the neural mechanisms underlying such TBI. Through this work she has provided the first mechanistic evidence of TBI and its association with cognitive functioning in women sustaining IPV-related TBI.

Throughout her career, Dr. Valera has been invited to present her neuroimaging work nationally and internationally, authored over 40 publications, is a reviewer for more than 50 scientific journals and has obtained numerous grants to support her research.  She has consulted as an expert witness in a DV-related homicide case where TBI was in question and provided consultation on another partner violence case with suspected TBI.  She has presented her data to the Santa Clara Death Review Team, has worked with police departments to successfully incorporate TBI assessment procedures into their Law Enforcement protocols, and has co-authored pamphlets for IVP-related TBI awareness and procedures.  In her current research, she is also collaborating with a neuopathologist in order to increase our understanding of the neural sequelae of partner-related TBI in both living survivors and murdered victims