Q & A with Dr. Bish and Student Charles Lee

The Mercury in Pottstown Oct. 23 featured a live, online Q & A with Joel Bish, associate professor of psychology and chair of the Neuroscience Department, and his student, Charles Lee. Lee and Bish are collaborating on research on concussions. The Mercury featured them as part of a series on concussions among female soccer players. More information about their research is on the Ursinus web site.

Students Cheyenne Layman and Charles Lee.

  The transcript follows:

Pottsmerc reporter Caroline SweeneyHello everyone! We are about to
start our discussion with Ursinus Summer Fellow Charlie Lee and Dr. Joel
Bish. Be sure to send your questions to use using #ConcussionsInGirls. –
Caroline Sweeney

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:22 Pottsmerc

Pottsmerc: Hey my name is Charlie. I’m a
senior currently studying concussion in Ursinus College. I started studying
concussions as a freshman and was interested in this study because the
initial findings on long term concussion damages really got to me. It was
shocking to see that some damages would last years after the initial
impact. Dr. Bish, my research adviser, encouraged me to look further into
the brain using EEG as my research tool.

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:25 Pottsmerc


Joel Bish: Hi, I am Joel Bish. I am an
Associate Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Neuroscience
program at Ursinus College. My research program regarding concussions had
been ongoing for the last 4 years. Currently, we are examining baseline
testing in athletes as well as using brain imaging to identify sensitive
measures of the impact of concussions.

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:28 Joel Bish

Pottsmerc: Charlie, what was one of the
most challenging parts of the study?

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:28 Pottsmerc


Pottsmerc: Finding the differences between
concussed and unconcussed students is the most challenging part of the
study. This differences in brain waves for each individual are so small
that every small change has to be factored in and considered.

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:30 Pottsmerc

Joel Bish: The brain measures we use, in
particular, the EEG, requires a complicated set of analyses which is
difficult to teach undergraduates how to use it.

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:31 Joel Bish


Pottsmerc: How did you approach athletes so
they were willing to participate?

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:31 Pottsmerc

Joel Bish: We’ve had a relationship with
the football team and their training staff for a couple of years. Most of
the early recruiting came from that relationship. Since then, we’ve
recruited by word of mouth.

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:33 Joel Bish


Pottsmerc: There were really three ways to
get student athletes to join the study. The first way was to email out
student athletes and explaining the nature of the research and how this
research could benefit them in the future. This method pulled in several
athletes who were curious how concussions affected their lives. The second
way was to ask coaches if they had willing participants. We find that
coaches are eager to find as much help for their athletes as possible. The
last way was to approach students who were willing just on campus. Not
everyone reads their email, so a face-to-face approach also works.

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:36 Pottsmerc

Pottsmerc: After four years, is there
anything interesting you can share about your findings so far?

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:36 Pottsmerc


Joel Bish: From the early work, we’ve
established that impulse control, or the ability to control one’s behavior,
as one of the primary deficits that results from concussions. This mild
loss of impulse control can last for months after a concussion. What’s most
interesting is that as a result of a loss in impulse control, an athlete
may be more likely to put themselves at greater risk for more concussions,
which is obviously not a good thing.

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:39 Joel Bish

Pottsmerc: Some of the major findings from
this research so far are the differences in memory and inhibition to
certain responses. We find that concussed athletes, regardless of how long
their most recent concussion was, show a lower level of inhibition to
impulse control tasks and lower accuracy in memory based tasks. To find
similarities in brain functions for those that have had concussions years
ago to those that had a concussion last week is very shocking and

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:40 Pottsmerc


Pottsmerc: Charlie, what are some of the
basics of the testing process you used over the summer?

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:45 Pottsmerc

Pottsmerc: We used the EEG, an
electroencephalogram, to measure an individuals brain activity. An EEG
places electrodes on a person’s head which in turn will help visualize the
brain activity underneath the skull. Using this brain data, I had to run
statistical analysis to show the differences between specific areas
(frontal, parietal, etc) of the brain in concussed and unconcussed

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:48 Pottsmerc


Pottsmerc: Dr. Bish, can you tell us about
the programs you designed in the early years of the research before Charlie
started using the EEG?

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:49 Pottsmerc

Joel Bish: Basically, I programmed a series
of tests that the athlete would perform on the computer. They included
memory tests, such as color/shape memory where you would have to remember
that a particular shape was matched with a particular color, except there
would be many of them to test the limits of each persons memory. Impulse
control tests such as Stroop tests, where you present the person with a
string of numbers: 3333 and they have to tell you how many digits there are
while ignoring the actual digits. We measure the accuracy of their
responses and their response times to the millisecond. The testing takes
about an hour or so,

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:54 Joel Bish


Pottsmerc: What were some of the reactions
you both received from athletes who participated while they were going
through the series of test? Were any of them nervous or excited?

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:54 Pottsmerc

Joel Bish: I think most were excited or at
least interested. After the battery of tests goes on though, many tend to
get a little bored. We offer them breaks at any time to alleviate that.

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:57 Joel Bish


Pottsmerc: Most athletes will come in
slightly nervous because they have no idea what types of tests they have to
take. Some will come in excited because they are very interested in how
their concussion may have affected them. You really see different reactions
from different people. Most of them are focused throughout the test because
they want to give it their best results.

Wednesday October 23, 2013 11:57 Pottsmerc

12:01 Pottsmerc: You bring in athletes to be tested
once currently, what are your future plans for the research?

Wednesday October 23, 2013 12:01 Pottsmerc


12:03 Joel Bish: We would love to start making it a
longitudinal study and measure the athletes over a few years. I also am
currently working on involving individuals from local youth sports
organizations and see what is happening to younger kids when they have a

Wednesday October 23, 2013 12:03 Joel Bish

12:03 Pottsmerc: As a graduating senior, I won’t be
directly a part of the research but instead be used as a resource for future
investigations related to this research. Future students who tackle this
research will be able to ask myself or even other students for help.

Wednesday October 23, 2013 12:03 Pottsmerc


12:07 Pottsmerc: Because the research will have a
chance to continue and evolve, what do you hope to see happen with continuing
concussion awareness and education?

Wednesday October 23, 2013 12:07 Pottsmerc

12:10 Joel Bish: I’d love to see an increase in
awareness, particularly in youth sports. I think the only way to prevent
concussions is through education of proper play, what results from a
concussion, and what a person or parent can do to help an individual who’s
had a concussion. For example, historically, individuals who had their
“bell rung” were told to get back on the field and work it off but
we now know that is the worst possible thing to do.

Wednesday October 23, 2013 12:10 Joel Bish


12:10 Pottsmerc: I feel that people need to realize
that concussions aren’t as mild as we think they are. This injury isn’t
something that goes away within weeks, it’s not a bruise. It potentially has
lasting, if not permanent, consequences.I want to see more attention to the rising problems in concussions and how
important this issue really is.

Wednesday October 23, 2013 12:10 Pottsmerc

12:42 Pottsmerc: We are finished taking questions
for Joel Bish and Charlie Lee. Join us Friday at 4 p.m. as we discuss
concussions with a neurologist at PMMC. Send your questions to Caroline
Sweeney at csweeney@pottsmerc.com

Wednesday October 23, 2013 12:42 Pottsmerc