August 15th 2017

Congratulations to Sasha Mallya who successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, entitled “Evaluating the Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Cognitive Function and Well-being in Caregivers of Persons with Dementia and Related Neurodegenerative Diseases”.


The objectives of Sasha’s dissertation were two fold: to compare caregivers’ cognitive and psychological wellbeing with non-caregiving older adults, and to assess whether a standardized mindfulness training intervention could improve cognitive function and well-being in caregivers of persons with neurodegenerative disease. A total of 57 older caregivers were recruited and were randomized to an 8-week mindfulness-training group or a psychoeducation control group. Baseline cognitive function and psychological wellbeing of the caregivers were compared with 97 non-caregiving older adults who completed a similar battery of measures. In contrasting baseline function with non-caregivers, caregivers reported greater perceived stress and were more likely to be at risk for depression. Further, despite being younger, the caregiver group performed significantly worse than non-caregivers on tests of executive function, verbal fluency, and learning and memory. In examining the effect of mindfulness training on cognitive and psychological wellbeing, post-intervention cognitive performance did not significantly differ as a function of group assignment. However, caregivers in the mindfulness group showed a significantly larger reduction in depression and perceived stress relative to caregivers in the psychoeducation group. Results of this study speak to the importance of creating programs that foster stress management and wellbeing in older adult caregivers of persons with dementia and related neurodegenerative disease.


Many thanks to the members of Sasha’s examining committee: Dr. Karen Milligan  (Supervisory Committee; Psychology), Dr. Kristin Vickers (Psychology), Dr. Kristine Newman (Internal-External Examiner, Nursing), and  Dr. Jill Cameron (External Examiner, University of Toronto). I would also like to thank Dr. Dejan Delic (Department of Mathematics) who chaired the defence.


Sasha did a beautiful job in presenting her dissertation today, in both its written and oral form. I am very proud to have had Sasha as my first graduate student and am excited for her final step in the program – the internship!


Please join me in congratulating Sasha on an excellent dissertation defense and to wish her all the best in Calgary where she will be completing her pre-doctoral internship at the Calgary Clinical Psychology Consortium.