Dr Louise Brown Nicholls

Senior Lecturer


Personal statement

My research is focused on understanding human memory and attention, and how these cognitive processes are affected by adult ageing, emotion (especially anxiety), and lifestyle factors (such as cognitive engagement). 

I gained my PhD in cognitive ageing at Glasgow Caledonian University in 2007. I then worked as a postdoctoral fellow, first at Glasgow Caledonian and then at The University of Edinburgh, where I worked on European Research Council and Leverhulme Trust-funded research projects. Prior to joining Strathclyde, I was a Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University (2011-2014). Some of my research on ageing has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, and the Chief Scientist Office.

I am Director of the Strathclyde Ageing Network, comprising Strathclyde's multidisciplinary ageing-related researchers and professionals.

I am a Fellow of the Psychonomic Society and the Higher Education Academy, and a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society.


Has expertise in:

    - human memory and attention

    - visual and spatial short-term ("working") memory

    - cognitive ageing

    - lifestyle effects on cognition

    - the role of cognition in health, especially regarding ageing

    - emotional impacts on cognition, especially anxiety.

Prizes and awards

Fellow of the Psychnomic Society
Chartered Psychologist
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
Elected Member of the Experimental Psychology Society

more prizes and awards


Strategic prioritisation enhances young and older adults' visual feature binding in working memory
Allen Richard J, Atkinson Amy, Nicholls Louise A Brown
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (2020)
Impacts of trait anxiety on visual working memory, as a function of task demand and situational stress
Spalding David M, Obonsawin Marc, Eynon Caitie, Glass Andrew, Holton Lindsay, McGibbon Monica, McMorrow Calhoun L, Brown Nicholls Louise A
Cognition and Emotion (2020)
Towards intervention development to increase the uptake of COVID-19 vaccination among those at high risk : outlining evidence-based and theoretically informed future intervention content
Williams Lynn, Gallant Allyson J, Rasmussen Susan, Brown Nicholls Louise A, Cogan Nicola, Deakin Karen, Young David, Flowers Paul
British Journal of Health Psychology (2020)
Multimodal coding and strategic approach in young and older adults' visual working memory performance
Nicholls Louise A Brown, English Brad
Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition Vol 27, pp. 83-113 (2020)
Globalising strategies to meet global challenges : the case of ageing and dementia
Parra Mario A, Butler Stephen, McGeown William J, Brown Nicholls Louise A, Robertson David J
Journal of Global Health Vol 9 (2019)
Anger linked to illness in old age
Brown Nicholls Louise

more publications


My teaching is focused in the areas of cognition and the psychology of ageing. I am the class leader of the honours topic "psychology and ageing", and I also teach in this area in the level 3 Development class. I supervise undergraduate, masters, and PhD level research. 


I am currently supervising the following PhD students:

  1. Abigail Paterson (co-supervisor). Topic: ‘implementation intentions, cognitive abilities and self-harm’ (ESRC-funded).
  2. Anna Krzeczkowska (lead supervisor). Topic: ‘intergenerational engagement interventions for enhanced cognition in older age’ (University-funded).
  3. David Spalding (lead supervisor). Topic: ‘the impact of anxiety on visual attention and working memory’ (University funded).
  4. Rebecca Wagstaff (co-supervisor). Topic: ‘mechanisms of cognitive and language impairment in Parkinson's Disease’ (University funded).

Research interests

My core interest is in cognitive ability in young and older adults. My research focuses upon understanding short-term ("working") memory and attention mechanisms, with an emphasis on processing and retaining visual information. A current area of focus is upon the ability to associate ("bind") visual information in working memory, and the ways in which this may be affected by ageing. Some of my research in this area has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. I am also interested in how young and older adults can maintain and even improve their cognitive functioning, for example by using cognitive strategies or by considering lifestyle factors such as level of cognitive engagement. Another area of interest is regarding the impacts of emotion, particularly anxiety, on attention and working memory.

Professional activities

Speaker at the University of the Third Age, Paisley & District.
Working Memory Discussion Meeting
Working Memory Discussion Meeting
Attendance at Scottish Older People's Assembly, Scottish Parliament.
University of Strathclyde:Our Research into Ageing and Intergenerational Engagement
Seminar speaker - Psychology, Leeds Beckett University

more professional activities


Improving older adults' vaccination uptake: are existing measures of vaccine hesitancy valid and reliabe for older people?
Williams, Lynn (Principal Investigator) Brown Nicholls, Louise (Co-investigator) Cogan, Nicola (Co-investigator) Rasmussen, Susan (Co-investigator) Young, David (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2020 - 31-Jan-2020
Information processing in visual perception and ageing
Guest, Duncan (Principal Investigator) Howard, Christina (Co-investigator) Brown Nicholls, Louise (Co-investigator)
Project funded by the School of Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, to investigate visual information processing and visual working memory in younger and older adults.
01-Jan-2012 - 31-Jan-2012
Encoding and interference effects on visual working memory binding in young and older adults
Brown Nicholls, Louise (Principal Investigator) Logie, Robert H. (Co-investigator) Allen, Richard J. (Co-investigator) Niven, Elaine (Fellow)
This Economic and Social Research Council-funded project was aimed at investigating the existence of age-related binding deficits in visual working memory, and to establish the possible role of encoding processes. There were three specific objectives:

1) To determine whether or not encoding time influences binding efficacy in older adults. Experiment 1 was designed to test the hypothesis that older adults' binding memory performance may suffer only when exposed to longer-than-required encoding durations, potentially implicating a central executive deficit.

2) To investigate the effects of presentation format (i.e., simultaneous – all at once – or sequential – one item at a time) and, within the sequential condition, whether serial position effects exist in binding memory performance. Experiment 2 was designed to reveal any difficulties experienced by older adults during the encoding phase of the task, which would have indicated limited central executive and/or working memory storage capacity.

3) To test the theory that older adults are less able than young adults to inhibit irrelevant information from working memory. Experiment 3 was designed to involve the brief presentation of a suffix (a new object irrelevant to the task) immediately after encoding of the to-be-remembered items. If older adults were more affected than young adults, reduced inhibitory processes would be implicated.
01-Jan-2011 - 30-Jan-2012
Optical Imaging Methods in the Study of Visual Cognition
Brown Nicholls, Louise (Principal Investigator)
The Carnegie Trust funded my visit to the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to investigate novel neuroimaging techniques.
01-Jan-2008 - 29-Jan-2008

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