Research in the news

Dr Marco Sandrini contributes to a feature by Wired on “How to hack your concentration when you’re working from home”, discussing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our anxiety and concentration levels.

How to hack your concentration when you’re working from home

The BBC reports how researchers have helped sufferers of schizophrenia control verbal hallucinations using new techniques.

Schizoprenia patients calmed by video game

Dr Natasza Orlov describes how Trans-cranial Direct current Stimulation (TDS) techniques may help schizophrenia sufferers to improve their memory and concentration on 

BBC World Service ‘Health Check’ programme (from 16.00 mins), Aug 2017. 

The Guardian reports that a research team, which includes Professor Paul Allen, has demonstrated how a substance found in cannabis my help people with psychotic disorders. Find out more here.

New study indicates why worry affects concentration on everyday tasks

29th August 2018.

The Guardian reports that a research team, which includes Professor Paul Allen, has demonstrated how a substance found in cannabis my help people with psychotic disorders. Link to news item:

Brain scans show how cannabis extract may help people with psychosis’.

16th November 2018.

The Daily Mail reports on a study led by Dr Alex Aksentijevic which demonstrates that ‘Walking backwards can boost your short-term memory’.

16th November 2018

‘New Scientist’ reported on Dr Aleks Aksentijevic’s research which may have implications for theories of memory. Dr Aksentijevic’s study investigated the effects of real or virtual motion on memory recall, or if real or virtual backward motion can improve short-term memory.

See the report, ‘Walking backwards can boost your short term memory’, 16th November 2018, here (pay wall).

19th November 2018

‘Newsweek’ and ‘The Independent’ reported on research which investigated the effects of the party drug MDMA on social interaction. The study, which included Roehampton’s Dr James Gilleen, aimed to evaluate potential to use MDMA in the treating psychological disorders. Researchers found in the study that the direction of modulation (i.e, the increase in empathy of participants) during social interaction was dependent on how they perceived the trustworthiness of others. Given the ‘social nature’ of psychotherapeutic approaches to treatment, understanding how MDMA affects social interaction may develop evidence to support its’ use in treatment.   

See the ‘Newsweek’ report, Pure MDMA makes men trust again after being betrayed’, 19th November 2018 here.

20th November 2018

Read ‘The Independent’ report ‘MDMA helps people cooperate and rebuild trust’, 20th November 2018 here


Is Blue Monday a myth?

Prof Paul Allen, professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Roehampton

“Blue Monday is claimed to be the day of the year when people supposedly feel at their lowest. But is there any science behind this? According to psychologist Cliff Arnall, there is a formula that proves this, combining factors like the weather and post-Christmas debt to explain feelings of sadness and low mood. But there are also brain-based explanations for low mood at this time of year. The limited amount of daylight in January is likely to be a factor. Low levels of ultraviolet light from the sun can exacerbate low mood in some people. Scientists are beginning to understand that the link between low levels of sunlight and low mood is mediated by the skin’s production of vitamin D, which requires ultraviolet light. Importantly, it is thought that serotonin, a neurochemical involved in regulating mood, requires vitamin D for its production. So increasing our exposure to ultraviolet light or vitamin D could help beat the winter blues.

“Another factor affecting our mood at this time of year may be our tendency to cut out certain foods and alcohol – just think of ‘Dry January’ or ‘Veganuary’. Whilst longer-term abstinence from alcohol has been shown to reduce feeling of anxiety and depression and there are clear and obvious health benefits associated with cutting out calorific food, reducing food and alcohol intake may not do much for our mood in the short term. That’s because cutting out or stopping rewarding and pleasurable behaviours may affect the brain’s dopamine system resulting in reduced positive emotions. Luckily, the brain’s reward system can be stimulated by other behaviours such as exercise, so maybe it’s time to renew that gym membership.”