Maureen Molloy (1925 – 2011) was a leading clinical and forensic neuropsychologist in Melbourne. As a scientist and psychologist with diverse and modern interests and as an expert witness in the courts she blazed an important trail for women.
On 25 July 1946 she graduated with a BSc (Hons) from the University of Sydney, the only female graduate in her year. She went on to be appointed as a Lecturer in Physics, a rare achievement for a woman at the time. She married and bore seven children between 1951 and 1963, the last of whom had a severe intellectual disability.
She returned to tertiary study and successively was awarded a BA (Hons) (1975) in psychology, an MA (1977) and a PhD (1984) in psychology, all from the University of Melbourne. Her PhD, supervised by Dr Kevin Walsh AO, was on “Memory Outcome Following Blunt Head Injury”. It reviewed a sample of 150 patients who had sustained blunt trauma injury to the head and studied the sequelae of bilateral damage to their frontal-temporal-limbic structures. She concluded that deficits in the organisational aspects of memory are evidenced by tendencies to perseverate in errors and to lack flexibility in patterns of responding and in the feedback from errors, despite ongoing correction from such errors. This suggested to her the presence of cognition processing disorders related to attentional functions and to the organisational aspects of memory.
While she was working as a neuropsychologist at the Austin and St Vincent’s hospitals, as well as in the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Centre at Glen Waverley, Dr Molloy set up a company to provide rehabilitation for people suffering brain injuries from transport and workplace accidents. Ultimately, her practice specialised in the diagnosis and measurement of acquired brain injury and she came to be recognised as one of Australia’s leading private practitioners in the field.
Dr Molloy had a particular interest in the use of computers to aid rehabilitation from brain injury. She published a book on the subject in 1988 with Julie Ann Garner Neuropsychological Rehabilitation: Recovery from Brain Injury (Spectrum, Melbourne) and in 1995 completed a Master of Science degree at the University of Melbourne in cognitive neuroscience, focussing upon the use of artificial intelligence systems to model brain function. Her thesis focused upon the feasibility of developing a computer-based diagnostic advisory system with the potential to provide reliable assistance in the prediction of outcome for patients who had sustained head injuries. In the years after her thesis she explored computer-generated options for assessing the neuroplasticity of the brain and models for assessing recovery from brain injury after traumatic injuries.