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. I am also interested in the cognitive impacts of emotion (anxiety) and lifestyle factors, such as nutrition and cognitive engagement in later life. 

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 cognitive ageing has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

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


Suffix interference and processing speed effects in young and older adults' visual feature binding
Brown Nicholls Louise, Niven Elaine, Hartley Emma, Mulgrew Aimee, Nemec Martin, Smith Catherine
British Psychological Society Cognitive Section Conference (2018)
Older adults benefit from symmetry, but not semantic availability, in visual working memory
Hamilton Colin J, Brown Louise A, Rossi-Arnaud Clelia
Frontiers in Psychology Vol 8, pp. 1-10 (2018)
Language production in Parkinson’s Disease : an investigation into the characteristics and underlying linguistic and cognitive mechanisms
Wagstaff Rebecca, Lowit Anja, Brown Louise, Kuschmann Anja
Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists Conference 2017 (2017)
Visual working memory in younger and older adults : multi-modal coding and strategic approach.
Brown Louise, English Brad
British Psychological Society Cognitive Section Conference (2017)
Retrieval and monitoring processes during visual working memory : an ERP study of the benefit of visual semantics
Orme Elizabeth, Brown Louise A, Riby Leigh M
Frontiers in Psychology Vol 8, pp. 1-10 (2017)
Number of objects and number of features influence the extent of age related differences in visual information processing
Guest Duncan, Mackenzie Andrew, Howard Christina J, Badham Stephen, Brown Louise
Experimental Psychology Society (2017)

more publications


My teaching expertise is in the study of cognition, especially memory and attention, and in the psychology of ageing. I also supervise undergraduate, masters, and PhD level research. I am the class leader of the undergraduate dissertation project and the honours topic option "psychology and ageing". I also teach on the psychology of ageing in the level 3 Development class, on memory in the level 3 Cognition class, and I contribute to level 2 social psychology teaching.

Research interests

I am interested 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, nutrition, or exercise.

Professional activities

Speaker at the University of the Third Age, Paisley & District.
Working Memory Discussion Meeting
Working Memory Discussion Meeting
Debate on Universal Basic Income
Attendance at Scottish Older People's Assembly, Scottish Parliament.
University of Strathclyde:Our Research into Ageing and Intergenerational Engagement

more professional activities


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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