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About Sickkids
About SickKids

January 16, 2012

Maureen Dennis – “the leading child neuropsychologist in North America” – receives lifetime achievement award

Maureen Dennis has been given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Neuropsychological Society. She will receive the award Feb. 15 during the annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society (INS) in Montreal.

Dennis is a neuropsychologist conducting clinical research into brain-behaviour relations in children with and adult survivors of neurodevelopmental disorders, and children with traumatic brain injury. She is Senior Scientist of Psychology and Neurosciences & Mental Health at SickKids and Professor of Surgery and Psychology at the Institute of Medical Sciences and the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto.

The INS award is given to people whose research is viewed as having been transformative for the field. Winners have worked in independent research for at least 25 years, have reached full professorship level, and are viewed internationally as leaders in their field.  

All of these criteria and more apply to Dennis. In the words of Dr. Jack M. Fletcher of the Department of Psychology at University of Houston Texas Medical Center Annex, “Maureen Dennis is the leading child neuropsychologist in North America. Her seminal contributions to scientific understanding of brain-behavior relations in children with brain injury fundamentally altered conceptions of neural plasticity and recovery from brain injury in children, cementing the international recognition of her scientific contributions exemplified by the INS Distinguished Career Award.”

Dr. Michael Salter, Associate Chief, Science Strategy, SickKids Research Institute, and Head of Neurosciences & Mental Health, concurs: “Maureen is an outstanding behavioral scientist,” he says.

Dennis earned her PhD in Physiological Psychology from York University in 1971 and joined SickKids as a scientist in 1977. She has received numerous awards, including two in 2011: The Invited Lectureship with the American Psychological Association and the Distinguished Women Scholar Lectureship at University of Victoria. In 2009, she was named Birch Lecturer, the most senior award presented by INS.

Dennis says her research differs from many of the studies conducted before the 1970s in two important ways: “First, it was anchored in an understanding of how children typically develop, rather than being simply comparative with adult brain disorders; and second, it was integrated with advances in cognitive psychology and cognitive development.

“This approach, I believe, has allowed my colleagues and I not only to describe childhood brain disorders, but also to predict the neurobehavioural characteristics of those children who will be able to learn and function in multiple environments.”

The INS award recognizes not simply an individual piece of work but a whole body of research, Dennis says. “It is particularly satisfying to me that the Award recognizes a body of paediatric work, because this places questions of paediatric neuropsychology in the forefront of the larger discipline of neuropsychology.”