Director, Centre for Research in Cognition, Neuroscience and Neuro-Imaging (CNNI).
My research career has focused on the neurobiology of psychosis and schizophrenia. I have published almost one hundred peer-reviewed papers in this research field and I am internationally recognised for my work on neurocognitive models of auditory verbal hallucinations. I have received awards and grants to support this work from the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, North American Research into Schizophrenia and Depression charity (NARSAD Young and Independent Investigator awards), King’s Health Partners and the British Academy. My current and future work aspires to use real-time functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, (rtfMRI), a cutting-edge neuroimaging technique, to examine functional brain networks that underly psychiatric symptoms and to examine if these can be self-regulated by psychiatric patients. Using rtfMRI in this context will enhance understanding of brain networks underling psychiatric symptoms and raises the tantalising prospect that patients could learn to regulate these networks to control or alleviate their psychiatric symptoms.
Other research areas of interest include the neural correlates of attentional control and how these are affected by high levels of trait anxiety (collaborations with Professor Michael Eysenck), and the effects of regular cannabis use on the brain, particularly the hippocampus and regions associated with memory function (collaborators Dr. Sagnik Bhattacharyya, King’s College London, and Dr Kaz Brant, Roehampton).
My research interests are diverse but cluster around perception and cognition. One area of interest is the integration of pitch in the brain. I have conducted a number of experiments which demonstrate that oscillations at a specific frequency (around 33 Hz) are associated with producing a unified pitch percept (1,2,3). I am interested in applying these findings to the problem of tinnitus and amusia.
In the area of visual perception I have demonstrated that simple geometrical objects distort the surrounding visual space and that these distortions affect object grouping (4,5). This project has the potential to contribute substantially to the theories of perceptual grouping and perceptual illusions.
Investigation of supramodal mechanisms of pattern processing is another area of interest (6,7) which has yielded interesting results—recognition of transformed patterns in a different modality are affected by pattern structure and complexity.
My work on perceptual complexity has resulted in a new complexity measure based on the amount of change (8,9) and has produced a novel form of hidden symmetry (generalised palindrome) which is currently used to investigate pre-conscious processing of pattern structure.
My interest in time perception has resulted in a study which demonstrated a Doppler-like effect in time distance estimates with respect to the past (10). This has served as a platform for my current work on the relationship between real or induced motion on memory.
Finally, I am interested in the psychology of music, philosophy of science and consciousness.
My research interests lie within the domains of memory, cognitive neuropsychology and psychopharmacology. I am specifically interested in the qualitative nature of recognition memory and the manner in which this interacts with the type of information that is being remembered, both in healthy adults and those with localised lesions to the medial temporal lobes. For example a recent key paper in a unique patient has demonstrated the selective role of the entorhinal cortex in the process of familiarity (Brandt et al., 2016; Brain and Cognition). In addition, my research also focuses on memory failures such as the process of forgetting, recently demonstrating the roles of the frontal lobes in this important process (Silas and Brandt, 2016; Neuroscience Letters).
My research interests are in the area of attention, perception, memory, and emotion. I’m currently using lateralised brain activity to investigate the neural mechanisms of attentional processes and the role that threat-related stimulus content have on attentional allocation. Further to this, I’m interested in how attentional allocation mechanisms are altered under cognitive and perceptual load.
Additionally, I’m investigating the neural mechanisms of visual attentional processes in relation to visual perception and visual short-term memory, with a specific interest in endogenous and exogenous attentional capture and the effect of these on visual short-term memory encoding. Specifically, a question of interest is how salient, but irrelevant, information is encoded, via attentional capture, into visual short term memory compared to encoding of task-relevant information.
My plans for future research include the investigating visual attentional learning and learning strategies and the subsequent change to visual attentional efficiency. Ideally, the goal is to improve visual attentional performance.
Michael Eysenck is a British academic psychologist, and is an emeritus professor in psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London. He also holds an appointment as Professorial Fellow at Roehampton University. His research focuses on cognitive factors affecting anxiety. Eysenck has written and co-written many publications, including several textbooks. In the late 1990s, he developed the theory of the 'hedonic treadmill', stating that humans are predisposed by genetics to plateau at a certain level of happiness, and that the occurrence of novel happy events merely elevates this level temporarily.
He is the son of the noted psychologist Hans Jürgen Eysenck.
Professor Eysenck's research focuses mainly on cognitive factors associated with anxiety in normal and clinical populations. He has recently developed two new theories. First, there is attentional control theory (with Nazanin Derakshan, Rita Santos, and Manuel Calvo), which provides a cognitive account of the effects of anxiety on performance. Second, there is vigilance-avoidance theory (with Nazanin Derakshan and Lynn Myers), which provides a detailed theory of repressive coping. His current research with collaborators is designed to test these two theories in detail.
Specific interests: Cognitive factors in anxiety, including clinical anxiety and implications for therapy. Memory functioning and attentional mechanisms. Personality and mood. Modular approaches to trait anxiety.
Professor Eysenck was a Lecturer and then Reader in Psychology at Birkbeck College University of London between 1965 and 1987. Between 1987 and 2009 he was Professor of Psychology at Royal Holloway College, University of London and Head of Department there between 1987 - 2005, and is now Emeritus Professor at RHUL. He has an additional appointment at Roehampton University that started in 2010. His main research area is anxiety and cognition, an area in which he has published approximately 100 journal articles and book chapters plus two research monographs. Overall, he has written 42 books, many of which are in the area of cognitive psychology, and have a grand total of over 200 publications.
My research explores the temporal and functional organization of cognitive processes, enhancing the understanding of neural mechanisms underlying visual cognition. I am currently investigating the electrophysiological correlates of exogenous capture of visual attention and the link between visual short-term memory (V-STM) and visual attention processes. I am interested in examining whether involuntary attentional capture by irrelevant but salient visual objects is an exogenous bottom–up phenomenon, or can be modulated by endogenous factors such as current task set. In particular, I am exploring how the combination of series of paradigms from Experimental Psychology including match-to-sample with inhibition of return (IOR) and memory guided visual-search, leads to a modulation of both behavioral performance (i.e. Response Times - RTs and accuracy) and neural responses (Event Related Potentials – ERPs, Wavelets, Phase Locking Factor) throughout task-engaged cortical regions.
Areas of research: Cognitive Neuroscience; translational research – early cognitive Biomarkers of Psychological Dysfunction; Cognitive Functions Enhancement through brain mapping and stimulation; Interdisciplinary approaches;
Leigh Gibson's current research is concerned with influences on appetite and food choice, and their interaction with stress, health, and cognitive and emotional well-being. Leigh has a particular interest in relations between nutrition and cognition, including direct effects of nutritional manipulation on cognitive function, and changes in food preferences through learning mechanisms. These involve understanding how sensory and nutritional aspects of food act on the brain to alter behaviour. Leigh is currently collaborating with Dr Tony Goldstone (Imperial College School of Medicine) on projects to understand behavioural changes in obese bariatric surgery patients. Furthermore, Leigh is working with Jonathan Howard (Hammersmith Hospital) to develop a tastant delivery system for use in the CUBIC fMRI facility at Royal Holloway, to examine brain responses to food and drink underlying eating habits and appetite control. Leigh is also UK PI on a MRC-funded feasibility study for a kindergarten-based health behaviour intervention in Malaysia (Toybox Malaysia).
My neuroimaging research predominantly focuses on understanding the phenomenology of symptoms of psychosis and schizophrenia. For example, some of my research has aimed to provide a better understanding of paranoia and delusions in the context of belief formation and management deficits - and furthermore, how and to what extent these processes can be modulated by brain stimulation and pharmacological compounds. Additionally, I use fMRI in the context of clinical trials to examine the neural changes associated with interventions designed to improve cognition in patient groups and healthy people, for example with candidate drugs, cognitive training or a combination. I also research insight, cognitive insight as well as reward processing deficits in schizophrenia to understand impairments in mood and motivation.
My research focuses primarily on the attentional processing of emotional information. I am also interested in the links between anxiety, attention and cognitive performance and in cognitive biases associated with vulnerability to emotional disorders. This work uses methods derived from cognitive neuroscience and experimental psychology. I have worked on projects investigating these issues in both human and also non-human primates. My research has also extended to the investigation of mirroring systems in the human brain and to colour categorisation in adults and infants.
I am a cognitive scientist with interests in language, memory and social cognition. I have used techniques from computational modelling, cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience.
Along with colleagues from Roehampton, recent projects have included:
the use of experimental methods, EEG and fMRI to examine action observation and perspective taking;
the use of fMRI to measure the association of the default mode network and measures of empathy;
accounting for variation in children’s reading performance with measures of metacognition.
A current focus is work with my colleague John Bullinaria (University of Birmingham) that continues our long collaboration of working on computational measures of word meaning. Our techniques have been very successful in generating numerical representations of the patterns of usage of different words in large bodies of text. The differences or distances between these "semantic vectors” can be shown to reflect the semantic relationships between different words. Recently, we have applied our technique to successfully improve models of cortical activation during word meaning processing tasks. Currently, along with Dr Samantha McCormick at Roehampton, we are looking at the various ways our semantic vectors can explain the linguistic structure of and human performance on vocabulary multiple choice tests. Plans for the future include exploring further applications of these semantic representations in the modelling of linguistic, cognitive and neuroscientific phenomena.
My research aims to relate human electroencephalogram (EEG) activity to both low-level sensory and high-level cognitive functions. In particular, I am interested in the ability of the human brain to manage the influx of external sensory information, and generate internal experiences in the absence of corresponding external sensory input, for example, memories, thoughts, and mental imagery. I am interested in the neural mechanisms underlying these two systems, and how they compliment and conflict with one another: how cognition shapes or inhibits perception, and vice versa. I am also interested in the ways in which high-level goals and plans can influence perception and cognition, and how these systems are managed appropriately in order to achieve such goals. In contrast, I also seek to uncover the influence of brain state and neural architecture on these systems. For example, do different patterns of neural activity within individuals, or differences in neural function between individuals, lead to differences in perceptual and cognitive function, or the effectiveness or manner in which these systems are managed.
There is increasing evidence to suggest that late chronotype individuals (i.e. those that prefer to go to bed late and wake later in the morning) are at increased risk for developing depression. At present, however, the putative psychological mechanisms underlying this risk remain to be determined. Work from my own laboratory here at the University of Roehampton (Berdynaj, Boudissa, Grieg, Hope, Mahamed & Norbury, 2016, Horne and Norbury, 2016) suggests that late chronotype individuals display negative biases in emotional processing (i.e. increased recognition of negative facial expressions) similar to those seen in currently depressed patients and this bias may mediate the vulnerability of these individuals to depression. In addition, using state-of-the-art Magnetic Resonance Imaging to explore brain structure and function, we have preliminary evidence indicating similarities between the depressed brain and the late chronotype brain. For example, depression is associated with reduced hippocampal volume, and our ongoing research shows a clear positive relationship between hippocampal surface thickness and chronotype such that late chronotype is associated with reduced hippocampal thickness. Future work will extend these findings with the ultimate aim of developing interventions to prevent the onset of depression in these vulnerable individuals.
My main research goal is to determine the neural mechanisms underlying episodic memory along the lifespan and to develop effective interventions aimed at preventing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
In collaboration with Prof. Paul Allen, Dr. Margot Crossman and Gergely Bartl (PhD student), I am working on a tDCS-fMRI project aimed at determining the neural mechanisms underlying memory enhancement induced by tDCS in healthy subjects.
In collaboration with Dr. Massimo Corbo (Milan, Italy) I am working on a project funded by European Union (Marie-Curie actions) aimed at improving episodic memory in individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). In addition, this projects aims to identify individuals with MCI who will benefit most from treatment with tDCS based on gray and white matter integrity and in relation to the characteristics of some of their genes associated with memory (BDNF, APOE).
In collaboration with Dr. Ben Xu and Dr. Leonardo Cohen (NINDS-NIH, US) I am working on a project funded by the US Department of Defense on the neural mechanisms underlying response inhibition in healthy subjects and patients with mild to moderate Traumatic Brain Injury.
I am a part-time Research Assistant for Professor Paul Allen, working on a large fMRI project investigating trait anxiety and attentional control. I was formerly involved in a part of the fMRI analysis of this project for my MSc dissertation, and am presently involved with the collection and analysis of additional fMRI data for this project. Previously, I completed a BSc in Psychology and Counselling and an MSc in Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Roehampton and am currently working within the NHS in inpatient mental health services alongside research assisting. My research interests are quite broad, and I hope to be involved with more research focusing on mental health and neuroimaging in the future.
In my PhD project I investigate neural mechanisms of episodic memory enhancement using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Recent studies suggest that non-invasive brain stimulation techniques reduce the degree of forgetting, particularly if applied over dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This effect has been reported both in young and old adults, suggesting these methods may have therapeutic potential, e.g. in people experiencing age-related memory problems.
My broader research interest is in shared neurophysiological mechanisms of cognitive and neurological conditions. I also contribute to teaching and marking on research methods and general psychology modules of the BSc Psychology course at the University.
Cannabis is the most widely used illicit substance, my research is a multimodal project looking at the long term effects of cannabis on brain function, structure and chemistry. While a number of studies have used Magnetic Resonance Imaging to assess the effects of cannabis both acutely and non- acutely on brain function. Our research will be one of the first to combine Magnetic Resonance Imaging with GABA and Glutamate spectroscopy and comprehensive psychometric approaches to assess the difference in encoding and retrieval in cannabis users, differences in GABA and Glutamate distributions in frontal regions and on a more exploratory level; how the age of onset of use effects changes associated with the brain and performance of cannabis users on memory tasks.
Charlotte Horne – PhD Student, Department of Psychology
My research is based on previous evidence that late chronotypes (‘night owls’) are more at risk of developing depression than early chronotypes (‘early birds’). I have been using behavioural techniques to identify if these at-risk individuals have differences in their emotional processing, reward-seeking or risk-taking behaviours. Additionally, I am using MRI techniques (including resting-state MRI, fMRI, MRS) to investigate whether late chronotypes have differences in the structure and/or function of their brain, which could explain why they are more prone to developing depression.
On a side note, I am also using functional spectroscopy (fMRS) to investigate and validate how well the BOLD signal is able to identify changes in neuronal activity in the amygdala – a region of the brain that has been shown to be affected by signal from local draining veins. This is important for my research since the amygdala is involved with processing emotional information and is therefore a key region of interest.
My PhD project will investigate the effect of real time fMRI-neurofeedback (rtfMRI-nf) training on attentional control in people with high trait anxiety. It will test the effects of rtfMRI-nf at neural and behavioural levels, and will also assess if trait anxiety levels are reduced by rtfMRI-nf training. On the neural level my study will focus on the frontal attentional network associated with the goal-directed attentional system (i.e. the DLPFC and dACC). Behaviourally, participants’ performance on attentional control tasks, with and without a threat component, will be examined. Participants’ trait anxiety levels will be assessed pre- and post-rtfMRI-nf training. The research will specifically test predictions derived from the Neurocognitive Framework for Attentional Control Theory (NFACT; Eysenck, Moser, Derakshan, & Allen, 2017). The study also aims to investigate the feasibility of using rtfMRI-nf to enhance attentional control in people with high trait anxiety and to provide crucial data and experience relating to the technical refinements for functional connectivity based rtfMRI-nf."
Natasza Orlov, is a postdoctoral researcher at University of Roehampton and King's College London. She earned her BSc from Middlesex. Subsequently she pursed a PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry King’s College London investigating the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on cognitive functioning in schizophrenia. Her main interests lay in cognition and the brain plasticity. Her post-doctoral research explores endogenous – real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging neurofeedback; and exogenous - brain stimulation - neuromodulation methods and their clinical, neuropsychological and functional effects in individuals with schizophrenia. Natasza holds the International Congress On Schizophrenia Research Young Investigator Award for her PhD research.