Dr Louise Brown Nicholls

Senior Lecturer

Psychology

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 am also interested in wider health-related issues such as vaccine hesitancy.

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 an Associate Editor at Frontiers in Psychology: Cognitive Science, and I am on the editorial board of the Journal of Cognition.

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

Expertise

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
Recipient
5/2018
Chartered Psychologist
Recipient
6/2015
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
Recipient
2013
Elected Member of the Experimental Psychology Society
Recipient
1/2011

More prizes and awards

Publications

A systematic review of the impacts of intergenerational engagement on older adults' cognitive, social, and health outcomes
Krzeczkowska Anna, Spalding David M, McGeown William J, Gow Alan J, Carlson Michelle C, Brown Nicholls Louise A
Ageing Research Reviews (2021)
https://doi.org/0.1016/j.arr.2021.101400
Older adults' vaccine hesitancy : psychosocial factors associated with influenza, pneumococcal, and shingles vaccine uptake
Brown Nicholls Louise A, Gallant Allyson J, Cogan Nicola, Rasmussen Susan, Young David, Williams Lynn
Vaccine Vol 39, pp. 3520-3527 (2021)
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2021.04.062
Cognitive, health and social outcomes of a school-based intergenerational engagement intervention for community-residing older adults.
Krzeczkowska Anna, McGeown William, Gow Alan J, Brown Nicholls Louise
The 6th international Conference of Aging & Cognition by EUCAS (2021)
Strategic prioritisation enhances young and older adults' visual feature binding in working memory
Allen Richard J, Atkinson Amy L, Nicholls Louise A Brown
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Vol 74, pp. 363-376 (2021)
https://doi.org/10.1177/1747021820960712
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 Vol 35, pp. 30-49 (2021)
https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2020.1803217
Towards understanding the impacts of anxiety on attention and visual working memory
Spalding David M, Nicholls Louise A Brown
(2021)

More publications

Teaching

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 (see Research section for further information). I am also the School Director of Postgraduate Research.

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.

 

I am currently supervising the following PhD students:

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

 

Lab Alumni:

  1. Dr Elaine Niven (postdoc; 2011-12) - Senior Lecturer in Psychology at University of Dundee.
  2. Dr Catherine Blackburn (intern; 2012) - Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University.
  3. Dr Brad English (intern; 2013) - Clinical Psychologist, Nottingham NHS.
  4. Martin Nemec (intern; 2018) - went on to study at postgraduate level at King's College London.
  5. Catherine Smith (intern; 2018) - went on to study primary education at University of Glasgow.
  6. Milan Zarchev (intern; 2019) - went on to study at postgraduate level in the Netherlands.
  7. Allyson Gallant (RA; 2020) - now studying for a PhD in Health at Dalhousie University.

Professional activities

Johns Hopkins University Center on Aging & Health.
Invited speaker
20/4/2021
Generations Working Together National Conference
Invited speaker
12/3/2021
Frontiers in Psychology: Cognitive Science (Journal)
Associate Editor
9/3/2021
Dunhill Medical Trust-Funded Sensory Impairment and Pharmaceutical Care of Older People Project (SIPA2) Advisory Group member. (Event)
Advisor
1/2021
10th European Working Memory Symposium
Chair
9/2020
Public webinar: 'Improving Vaccine Uptake in Scotland: Implications for COVID-19, influenza and other adult vaccines.'
Speaker
29/7/2020

More professional activities

Projects

Improving young adults’ visual short-term memory capacity: harnessing the benefits of visual semantics and strategic training
Brown Nicholls, Louise (Principal Investigator) Hart, Rebecca (Researcher)
Carnegie Vacation Scholarship awarded to Rebecca Hart.
01-Jan-2021 - 23-Jan-2021
Ageing and communication: Understanding the roles of cognition, speech production, and social participation
Brown Nicholls, Louise (Principal Investigator) Kuschmann, Anja (Co-investigator)
SGSSS ESRC studentship
01-Jan-2020 - 30-Jan-2024
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
Factors that cause hardship for older adults in Scotland
Brown Nicholls, Louise (Principal Investigator)
02-Jan-2018 - 16-Jan-2018
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

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