My research interests can be broadly summarised as aiming to investigate and explain human behaviour by considering multiple potential influences at different levels of explanation. For example, people’s genes, their brain structure, their brain functioning, cognitive, physiological and emotional functioning can all affect people’s behaviour both individually and in an interactive way. In addition to this, all individuals exist within a specific environment, as does each level of their functioning (for example a person may behave differently in quiet, relaxed surroundings compared to noisy, chaotic surroundings; and the same cognitive process may have different effects depending on which other cognitive processes are engaged). The environment in the broad sense of the term is therefore also an extremely important factor to consider when aiming to explain human behaviour. Finally, I am extremely interested in ultimately being able to bring about a behavioural change when such a change is desired by the individual in question.
To find out more about my previous research click here
Marie Curie Fellowship
In January 2010 I was awarded an International Outgoing Marie Curie Fellowship by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme. This fellowship will support my research for the three years between March 2011 and March 2014. During the first two years of this fellowship I will be working with the Culture and Social Neuroscience Laboratory at the Department of Psychology, Peking University, China. The final year of this fellowship will be in the School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK.
During my time in Beijing I will be looking at how cultural factors can influence people’s abilities and tendencies to regulate their emotions accross different culturally relevent contexts. I will be using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Electroencephalography to look at neural activity and I will also be interested in emotional experience, emotional behaviour and physiological responding. When I return to the UK I will include people with rare genetic disorders in my research so that I can look at how a specific genetic factor can influence people’s abilities to regulate their emotions and empathic responses.
Helping strategies for people with Prader-Willi syndrome
In September 2010 I began supervising a PhD student, Leah Bull. Her PhD is supported by a grant that was awarded to me in collaboration with Prof. Chris Oliver, by the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation, and by the School of Psychology, University of Birmingham. Leah Bull is also co-supervised by Prof. Chris Oliver and Prof. Tony Holland from the University of Cambridge. This research looks at various ways to try to help people with Prader-Willi syndrome have less difficulties with temper outbursts. We are looking at strategies informed by operant learning theory as well as those focusing on the specific cognitive difficulties that we have shown can be linked to temper outbursts. This project will run until September 2013.
I am currently acting as an associate supervisor for Lauren Rice, a PhD student who started her PhD in August 2011 with Prof. Steward Einfeld at the University of Sydney, Australia. Lauren is also focusing on understanding temper outbursts in Prader-Willi syndrome.
Understanding the associations between executive functioning and behaviour in disordered populations
I am currently coordinating some pilot work that is taking place at the Cerebra Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders, University of Birmingham. This work is in collaboration with Prof. Chris Oliver, Dr. Sarah Beck and Dr. Amanda Wood all from the University of Birmingham, as well as Dr. Gaia Scerif and Prof. Glyn Humphreys from the University of Oxford and Prof. Chris Jarrold from the University of Bristol. Sophie Milward and Willie Tang (MRES students) and Krupa Seth (Honorary Research Associated at the Cerebra Centre) have also assisted with this work. The aim of the research is to better understand the associations between executive functions and clinically relevant behaviours in disordered populations and ultimately to use this information to train executive functioning in order to have a specific, desired effect on clinically relevant behaviour.