Atlanta, GA,
15:23 PM

Helping Patients Understand Their Brain Injuries

As a board-certified neuropsychologist, Michelle Jackson, Ph.D., ABPP-CN, educates patients and families on how injury or illness may affect brain function.

Michelle Jackson, Ph.D., ABPP-CN.

How long have you worked at Shepherd Center, and what is your role?

I’ve worked here for seven years. I am a neuropsychologist in the inpatient Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program. I work with patients to assess cognition, behavior, and emotional functioning after their brain injury. I educate patients, families, and staff about those changes. I also see one outpatient a month for general neuropsychological evaluation, including internal referrals, often from the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute, or external referrals from primary care physicians or neurologists. I also am co-director of our Neuropsychology Fellowship training program. In that role, I help recruit, train, and supervise neuropsychology fellows.

What is the difference between a neuropsychologist and a psychologist?

Neuropsychologists are specialized in understanding the brain/behavior relationship. When most people think of a psychologist, they imagine a clinical psychologist who works with people with anxiety, depression, or trauma histories. Neuropsychologists work to understand how the brain's function impacts someone on a day-to-day basis. That includes working with people who had injuries to their brain, like strokes or traumatic brain injury, and people who have illnesses that could impact their brain function, like multiple sclerosis or dementia.

Neuropsychologists consider a holistic view of the patient, including mental health. We need to understand their medical history, any medications they're taking, and how those might impact their cognitive or behavioral functioning. We also consider things like sleep, fatigue, and pain and how those might also impact cognitive functioning. The neuropsychologist also needs a good understanding of the role of culture, educational attainment and quality, family systems, health literacy, and other factors.

How do you think your role impacts patients and their families?

As patients become more insightful, education, validation, and normalization of their experiences can be essential for coping. Educating patients and their families about what to expect, what a recovery timeline looks like, and how they can help with recovery can improve adjustment.

What's the most fulfilling part of your job?

The education piece is fulfilling — helping people have those light bulb moments of understanding how brain injury is impacting them. The teamwork—building relationships through working with the interdisciplinary team and training our fellows are also very fulfilling.

What was one of your best days at work?

When our previous inpatients come back to visit us, seeing their progress lights up the day.


Loyola University, Bachelor’s degree in Psychology

Suffolk University, Boston, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology

University of Mississippi Medical Center-Jackson VAMC Consortium, Clinical internship

Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson, Mississippi, APPCN-approved postdoctoral fellowship in neuropsychology

Fun Facts:

-       Dr. Jackson grew up in Trinidad but has lived in the United States as an adult.

-       She loves scary movies and “The Bachelor” and encourages everyone she knows to watch “The Golden Bachelor.”

-       She enjoys weightlifting and is a CrossFit Level-1 trainer. Her goal is to combine her love for weightlifting and brain injury rehab by becoming certified in Adaptive and Inclusive Training.

-       She loves spending time with her dog, Belle.







About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.