Dr. Joanna Atkinson

Jo Atkinson

I am a university researcher and a clinical psychologist with additional qualifications in clinical neuropsychology. My work benefits from having one foot in academic and clinical camps, and cuts across several fields including: cognitive neuroscience; neuropsychology and psycholinguistics. My career has focused on both clinical service development and research. Early in my career I worked as a clinical auditor and assistant psychologist in adult mental health, where I developed an interest in psychosis and hearing voices, which informed my later ground breaking research into the phenomenology of voice hallucinations in people who are born deaf

As a researcher on the Deaf Stroke Project, exploring the impact of stroke (CVA) on cognition, sign language comprehension and production in deaf people who are typically under referred to NHS rehabilitative services, I gained knowledge of how to tailor assessments of aphasia, apraxia and agnosias in a population for whom standardised assessments are not validated, creating a new battery of tests, which is now hosted online on the DCAL Test Portal.

I completed my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Bristol in 2005 and a post-doctoral diploma in Applied Clinical Neuropsychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, in 2008. I have worked clinically with both deaf and hearing clients in: mental health (adult and child); community learning disability; forensic learning disability; older adult and neuropsychology outpatient and community rehabilitation teams within the National Health Service.

The reason my research has focused largely on deaf people and applied clinical neuropsychology is because I recognised early in my career that there was a total dearth of tools and provision for this population, so I set about trying to change this.

My research work with people with dementia identified the need to develop neurological services for deaf people. I led a research team developing and norming new cognitive screening and verbal memory tests in British Sign Language. Once we had these tools we were able to establish the new Cognitive Disorders Clinic for deaf patients at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in central London. I work there on an honorary basis as a Clinical Psychologist conducting neuropsychological assessment of Deaf BSL users.

My research interests include: the relationship between executive function and language; working memory and deafness; the impact of neurological conditions such as stroke, dementia, autism on BSL; schizophrenia, psychosis and voice-hallucinations in deaf people and blind people and the clinical assessment of acquired and developmental neurological conditions in Deaf BSL users. I am also interested in clinical neuropsychology assessment of people with disabilities, modifying existing test and validating new tools for diverse groups.