Area of Expertise
- 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.
Prize And Awards
My core interest is in cognitive abilities across the adult lifespan. 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. 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. Some of my research on binding and cognitive strategies has been funded by research grants awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council. 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:
- Laura Manderson (lead supervisor; from Oct. 2020). Topic: 'ageing and communication: Understanding the roles of cognition, speech production, and social participation' (ESRC supervisor-led 1+3 award).
- Abigail Paterson (co-supervisor; from Oct. 2018). Topic: ‘implementation intentions, cognitive abilities and self-harm’ (ESRC-funded).
Key lab Alumni:
- Dr Anna Krzeczkowska (lead PhD supervisor; 2017-2022). Topic: ‘intergenerational engagement interventions for enhanced cognition in older age’ (University-funded). Went on to work with the Scottish Government.
- Dr David Spalding (lead PhD supervisor; 2017-2021). Topic: ‘the impact of anxiety on visual attention and working memory’ (University-funded). Went on to an MRC-funded postdoctoral research position and now based at King's College London.
- Rebecca Hart (Carnegie Trust summer scholarship supervisor; 2021). The role of semantics and strategy training in visual working memory. Currently working in the lab on masters-level research.
- Dr Rebecca Wagstaff (PhD co-supervisor; 2015-21). Topic: ‘mechanisms of cognitive and language impairment in Parkinson's Disease’ (University funded). Went on to work as a Research Officer with the Risk Management Authority.
- Allyson Gallant (RA co-supervisor; 2020). Went on to study for a PhD in Health at Dalhousie University.
- Milan Zarchev (intern supervisor; 2019). Went on to study for a masters and then PhD at Erasmus University, Rotterdam.
- Catherine Smith (intern supervisor; 2018). Went on to study primary education at University of Glasgow.
- Martin Nemec (intern supervisor; 2018). Went on to study at postgraduate level at King's College London.
- Dr Brad English (intern supervisor; 2013). Went on to become a Clinical Psychologist (Nottingham NHS).
- Dr Catherine Blackburn (intern supervisor; 2012). Went on to become Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University.
- Dr Elaine Niven (postdoc. lead supervisor; 2011-12). Went on to become Senior Lecturer in Psychology at University of Dundee.
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.