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 am also interested in wider health-related issues across the adult lifespan, such as vaccine hesitancy. My research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Chief Scientist Office, and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.

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

I am founding Director of the Strathclyde Ageing Network, comprising ~100 of Strathclyde's multidisciplinary ageing-related researchers and key external partners, and I lead the new Scottish Cognitive Ageing Network. I am also a member of the planning group of the Scottish Older People's Assembly. My other external partners include Alzheimer Scotland, Generations Working Together, and U3A.


I gained my PhD in cognitive ageing at Glasgow Caledonian University in 2007. I then worked as a postdoctoral fellow, first at Glasgow Caledonian University 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 (2011-14), where I founded my Memory & Ageing Lab. I have served on ethics committees at multiple institutions for approximately 10 years in total. I am a Fellow of the Psychonomic Society and the Higher Education Academy, and a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society. 

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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

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

More prizes and awards

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Research Interests

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:

  1. 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).
  2. Abigail Paterson (co-supervisor; from Oct. 2018). Topic: ‘implementation intentions, cognitive abilities and self-harm’ (ESRC-funded).

Key lab Alumni:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Allyson Gallant (RA co-supervisor; 2020). Went on to study for a PhD in Health at Dalhousie University.
  6. Milan Zarchev (intern supervisor; 2019). Went on to study for a masters and then PhD at Erasmus University, Rotterdam.
  7. Catherine Smith (intern supervisor; 2018). Went on to study primary education at University of Glasgow.
  8. Martin Nemec (intern supervisor; 2018). Went on to study at postgraduate level at King's College London.
  9. Dr Brad English (intern supervisor; 2013). Went on to become a Clinical Psychologist (Nottingham NHS).
  10. Dr Catherine Blackburn (intern supervisor; 2012). Went on to become Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University.
  11. Dr Elaine Niven (postdoc. lead supervisor; 2011-12). Went on to become Senior Lecturer in Psychology at University of Dundee.

Professional Activities

External examiner of PhD Thesis (University of Essex)
External examiner of PhD thesis (University of Aberdeen)
Working Memory Discussion Meeting
External examiner of PhD thesis (University of Glasgow).
Our research combatting age related disorders and promoting healthy ageing: A Strathclyde Ageing Network and Dementia Research Network Event
European Society for Cognitive Psychology (External organisation)

More professional activities


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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Dr Louise Brown Nicholls
Senior Lecturer

Email: l.nicholls@strath.ac.uk
Tel: 548 2661