Jan 08 2019

Professor Dawn Langdon, Department of Psychology, has recently developed a new clinical tool for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) called BICAMS. The tool allows non-specialists to assess the cognitive functioning of their MS patients, allowing larger amounts of centres to address cognition. We recently caught up with Dawn to understand more about her role within the Department of Psychology, and her latest development.

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role within the Department of Psychology?

I am the Academic Director on the Clinical Psychology Programme, which is an NHS funded professional doctorate training graduate psychologists to work in the NHS as clinical psychologists. I and all staff members are clinical psychologists. My role is to deliver the curriculum and ensure it meets accreditations standards for our professional bodies, currently the HCPC, BPS and BABCP.

2. We understand that you have recently developed a clinical tool called BICAMS, could you tell us more about it?

 My research work focuses on multiple sclerosis (MS), which is a chronic neurological condition. It is the greatest cause of disability in young adults in the Western world. People with MS often experience difficulties with memory and concentration (“cognition”). In the past, assessment and management of cognition was only available in specialist university clinics. I co-chaired a committee that developed a brief cognitive battery (Brief international Cognitive Assessment for MS, BICAMS), which is designed to be accurate and feasible in most clinical settings.

3. What sort of impact do you hope comes from the use of BICAMS?

Our aim was to make cognitive assessment available to many more people with MS and by achieving this, to improve awareness and management of cognition in MS globally.

4. What kind of response have you had from the international MS community?

We have 30 countries in the international validation pipeline, of whom 16 have published their national validation studies to date. We are aware of clinics that in total assess 10,000 people with MS on BICAMS every year, across the world; there are probably many more. In addition, and unexpectedly, our provision of an international consensus assessment of MS cognition has led to many centres adopting it for research studies. To date, 40 scientific papers have been published using BICAMS to assess cognition and discover how cognition relates to other disease variables and the efficacy of medications and other treatments. Over 10,000 people with MS have participated in these studies. BICAMS is also in use, and planned to be used, in many large international trials of drug efficacy for pharmaceutical companies. BICAMS’ international story has recently been covered in a Research Outreach article.

5. Aside from BICAMS, are you currently working on any other projects/research?

With my team, I have developed a way of presenting the complex risk and benefit profile of MS medications to people with MS during their clinic consultation (Benefits and Risks of Medication for MS, BRIMMS). We are developing a test to measure cerebellar function in MS that could be used for clinical and research work. We have looked at what adolescents want from health information websites, to help the Multiple Sclerosis Trust develop a website for young people with MS. We are in the process of analysing data input by 10,000 people with MS on a depression questionnaire (the HADS), to determine what is the particular pattern of depressive thought in MS, for the UK MS Society.

6. Outside of work do you have any hobbies or interests?

I like to walk, particularly beside rivers or the sea. I like to read, history in general but particularly British 20th century political history and commentary; about the intelligence services and community; and also about great couturiers and how fashion impacts society. I like to watch movies and TV, and to go to the theatre, again favourites are history, and political and spy stories. My guilty pleasure is science fiction. I like to entertain. I am a reasonable cook and my husband is a pesco vegetarian, so I am always on the look-out for good recipes.

7. What’s your favourite term at Royal Holloway and why?

I think it would be the spring term, because the campus always looks especially beautiful then.

8. You may have seen our latest recruitment campaign, ‘Find your why’. We are interested to find out what Royal Holloway has helped you to discover about yourself…

I have worked as an academic at Royal Holloway since 1999 and I think over the years, I have discovered that I can command the respect, energy and resources of the international MS stakeholder community. I have also discovered the real pleasure of guiding DClinPsy trainees through professional training, including supervising thesis projects that get to major conferences and produce publications. More personally, I have discovered that I can manage and deliver website and software projects (e.g. www.BICAMS.net and the IPAD BICAMS), which are not really in my comfort zone.

If anyone would like any more information about multiple sclerosis, the Multiple Sclerosis Trust has a very helpful website and helpline (0800 032 3839).