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Dr. Chidekel is a frequent presenter to lay and professional audiences. Please contact her if you are interested in having her present to your group. The following are popular topics:

“Warring Siblings, Second Spouses and Suddenly-Not-So-Distant Relatives: Strategies to Mitigate Escalating Litigation in Elder Law Scenarios”

When parents are aging, medical decision-making, provision of care, and distribution of inheritance can ignite conflicts among relatives that flare and accelerate with the speed and force of a forest fire. “Mature adults” behave like the children they once were. Unresolved conflicts that have lurked quietly in the background for years reconfigure in an instant around who gets to make which decision, who gets what from the estate, who knows or knew the parent best, who is most loved. Bitter rivalries, accusations and suspicions flourish in such soil. The parents who might have earlier kept the peace are now too infirm to do so. The fight leaves the family home and moves into the court system, where litigants weaponize themselves with attorneys. Money is spent, acrimony escalates. This talk will offer tools attorneys can use to help de-escalate conflicts and move clients toward resolution before all the money is spent and any possibility of future harmony is left in ashes on the courtroom steps.

“Your Brain: A User’s Guide for Non-Neuropsychologists”

Have you recently forgotten a familiar person’s name? Do you know where your keys are? Are you ”just not a math person”? Why do you repeat unhealthy patterns in different relationships? How do others accomplish so much while your “To Do” list looms over your “Done” pile? We rely on our brains to manage the simple and complex demands of everyday living. Fortunately, we have an ever-increasing amount of information about how they do it. In this seminar, we will talk about the current developments in our understanding of brain-behavior relationships and how they can help us better understand ourselves and others in day-to-day life.

“From ‘Where did I put my keys?’ to ‘What keys?’ Signs that Your Clients May Be Losing Capacity”

Cognitive changes occur with normal aging. But where’s the line between normal changes and pathology that significantly (and legally) affects a client’s decision-making? And how can you tell the difference between cognitive deterioration due to dementia and cognitive change associated with depression that doesn’t have roots in neurodegeneration (and is treatable)? Appreciating these distinctions will allow professionals who serve elders to feel more confident in understanding a client’s behavior and in discerning the thresholds at which they need to pursue a more formal assessment on his or her behalf.

“Does a Fish Know It’s in Water? How Our Invisible Assumptions Determine What We See”

Our brains are continually engaged in solving a selection problem. We can’t take in everything around us. To what do we attend? What do we screen out? These “decisions” are invisible. They’re the products of our particular neurologies and of the habits of thinking that each of us begins to develop in infancy, before we’re even aware of thinking. Habits of thinking are adaptive for survival because they make the world knowable and predictable. But they limit us as well. In this presentation, we’ll talk about how we develop in the ways we do, and how we can expand our range of thinking and perceiving beyond our limitations of which we’re not aware.

“Keys to the Kingdom: Improve Your Law Practice by Understanding Motivation & Decision-Making”

Attorneys guide their clients in decision-making. It goes without saying that a strategy that works with one client may not work with another. What’s less obvious is why. Understanding foundational components of cognitive development and the different patterns into which they constellate is a tool in the attorney’s box. Thus equipped, you’ll better understand what motivates different clients, have tools to help them make decisions, and have a framework to assess opposing counsel’s strengths and vulnerabilities (and maybe even your own).

“Capacity & Undue Influence: How to Use your Neuropsychology Expert in Probate Litigation”

Questions about an elder’s vulnerability to undue influence and his or her testamentary or contractual capacity lie at the heart of many matters in probate litigation. In this informative and entertaining talk, we’ll clarify the scope of the expert neuropsychologist’s role in probate litigation Then, we’ll bring that information to life in a discussion of a neuropsychologist’s work with an attorney on a matter in which a Decedent’s capacity and her vulnerability to undue influence were both at issue.

“How to Tell If a Litigant is Faking in a Psychological or Neuropsychological Exam”

Parties to civil, criminal, family, and employment law matters may undergo psychological or neuropsychological assessment as a part of their cases. Plaintiffs alleging traumatic brain injury from an accident or psychological injury from workplace discrimination may be motivated to exaggerate cognitive limitations and psychological complaints. Parents battling for custody may want to hide underlying pathology. Criminal defendants may seek to hide or exaggerate pathology, depending how sentencing will be impacted. Some litigants malinger intentionally; others skew results as a function of less conscious processes and motives. So how can you tell? There are tests administered solely to measure effort and motivation, and there are indices embedded within specific tests that reflect effort and motivation as well. But there’s more: A knowledgeable expert evaluates the consistency of scores on tests that measure overlapping areas of function; the relationship of test scores with known patterns of damage and disability; the relationship of scores to reported symptoms; and the relationship of all findings with a litigant’s functioning in everyday life (including the exam). Seasoned experts also recognize patterns of test performance that conform to (or defy) “common sense” that isn’t “common” to those without training in psychological function and brain-behavior relationships. Understanding how effort and motivation are assessed gives attorneys a sharp tool in their box to limit a psychological or neuropsychological expert’s subjective and interpretative leeway. Understanding how – and how well – an expert’s data supports his or her opinions arms attorneys to cross-examine the adversary’s experts at deposition and trial, and it better positions them to prepare their own experts for direct and cross-examination.

Dr. Dana Chidekel is a clinical neuropsychologist, board certified by both the American Board of Professional Neuropsychology and the American Board of Pediatric Neuropsychology. In her private practice, she performs complex, comprehensive neuropsychological and psychological assessments of children, adolescents, adults, and elders. She is retained as an expert by both plaintiff and defense in civil, employment, elder, class action, special education, and (limited) criminal and family law matters. Dr. Chidekel has authored and co-authored peer-reviewed articles that address the role of boundaries in professional practice and the role of subcortical brain structures and networks in cognitive and emotional function. She has had a professional presence on national television and radio.