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 Director of the Strathclyde Ageing Network, comprising Strathclyde's multidisciplinary ageing-related researchers and key external partners. I am also a member of the planning group of the Scottish Older People's Assembly


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). 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


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, Nicholls Louise A Brown
Ageing Research Reviews Vol 71 (2021)
Adult aging moderates the relationship between trait cognitive anxiety and subjective everyday cognitive difficulties
Spalding David M, MacAngus Kerry, Moen Martine K, Nicholls Louise A Brown
Frontiers in Psychology Vol 12 (2021)
Older adults' vaccine hesitancy : psychosocial factors associated with influenza, pneumococcal, and shingles vaccine uptake
Nicholls Louise A Brown, Gallant Allyson J, Cogan Nicola, Rasmussen Susan, Young David, Williams Lynn
Vaccine Vol 39, pp. 3520-3527 (2021)
Cognitive, health and social outcomes of a school-based intergenerational engagement intervention for community-residing older adults
Krzeczkowska Anna, McGeown William, Gow Alan J, Nicholls Louise A Brown
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)
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, Nicholls Louise A Brown
Cognition and Emotion Vol 35, pp. 30-49 (2021)

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 (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; from Oct. 2020). Topic: 'ageing and communication: Understanding the roles of cognition, speech production, and social participation' (ESRC-funded; 1+3 award).
  2. Abigail Paterson (co-supervisor; from Oct. 2018). Topic: ‘implementation intentions, cognitive abilities and self-harm’ (ESRC-funded).
  3. Anna Krzeczkowska (lead supervisor; from Oct. 2017). Topic: ‘intergenerational engagement interventions for enhanced cognition in older age’ (University-funded).

Key lab Alumni:

  1. Dr David Spalding (lead PhD supervisor; 2017-2021). Topic: ‘the impact of anxiety on visual attention and working memory’ (University-funded).
  2. Rebecca Hart (Carnegie Trust summer scholarship supervisor; 2021). The role of semantics and strategy training in visual working memory.
  3. Dr Rebecca Wagstaff (PhD co-supervisor; 2015-21). Topic: ‘mechanisms of cognitive and language impairment in Parkinson's Disease’ (University funded). Research Officer with the Risk Management Authority.
  4. Allyson Gallant (RA co-supervisor; 2020) - went on to study for a PhD in Health at Dalhousie University.
  5. Milan Zarchev (intern supervisor; 2019) - went on to study at postgraduate level in the Netherlands.
  6. Catherine Smith (intern supervisor; 2018) - went on to study primary education at University of Glasgow.
  7. Martin Nemec (intern supervisor; 2018) - went on to study at postgraduate level at King's College London.
  8. Dr Brad English (intern supervisor; 2013) - Clinical Psychologist, Nottingham NHS.
  9. Dr Catherine Blackburn (intern supervisor; 2012) - Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University.
  10. Dr Elaine Niven (postdoc. lead supervisor; 2011-12) - Senior Lecturer in Psychology at University of Dundee.

Professional activities

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

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

More projects