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Age, cognitive control and emotion regulation: The impact on well-being in daily life

Ageing is paired with cognitive decline, yet the impact of these impairments on emotion regulation capacity is unclear. We will assess the extent to which cognitive performance in middle- and older-aged adults (from 55-80 years old)

Department: Psychology, Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences

Supervised by: Carien van Reekum

The Placement Project

The capacity to regulate one’s emotions has great importance to mental and physical well-being in daily life, and is often disrupted in emotional disorders, such as depression. Whilst it is well-documented that normal ageing is paired with cognitive decline, the impact of these impairments on emotion regulation is unclear. This is a bit surprising, since we know from neuroscience that the neural circuitry underlying adaptive emotion regulation overlaps with the neural circuitry underlying cognitive control, and it is precisely this circuitry in lateral prefrontal cortex that is most vulnerable to grey matter loss when getting older. So is cognitive performance in older age associated with any changes in emotion regulation? In an ongoing project, we study the extent to which performance on a number of cognitive tasks testing inhibitory control is associated with regulation of emotional information and well-being in daily life, assessed with questionnaires and by measuring daily fluctuations in the stress hormone cortisol. During this placement, the student will be trained on cognitive testing of older adults, and statistically analyse behavioural data collected to assess emotion regulation. The student will also gain experience with salivary cortisol data collection. In addition, if the student is interested, the student will have the opportunity to be involved in the design and piloting of an MRI study, which forms the next step in the ongoing research project. Thus, the student gains valuable experience in standardised neuropsychological tests, novel techniques in assessing emotion regulation, and experience in psychobiology in the form of stress hormones (and MRI task design), in addition to the experience of interacting with older-aged participants.

Tasks

The student will help with participant recruitment (of around 20 participants) and data collection in an ongoing study to gain some experience with running participants through an experimental protocol. The student will also reduce data from the behavioural tasks and enter and reduce data from questionnaires, using E-Prime and Excel, and analyse data using SPSS.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

A strong background in Research Methods and an interest in Psychobiology/Neuroscience, as well as excellent communication skills, are essential. Good knowledge of statistics or mathematics, good computer skills and an interest to further pursue research will be preferred.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The bursary will provide a unique opportunity for students to obtain hands-on experience in ageing research. The student will be trained in all aspects of the research, including standardised neuropsychological testing, running computerised tasks (using E-Prime), data reduction (using E-Prime and Excel) and data analysis (using Excel and SPSS). The placement will lead to a co-authorship on a publication of the research findings; writing skills will be further honed by assisting in the writing of a Methods section.

Place of Work

Psychology Department

Hours of Work

full-time for 6 weeks

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Unknown - Unknown

How to Apply

Please send a CV and a short cover letter with a statement of motivation to Dr. Carien van Reekum (c.vanreekum@reading.ac.uk).


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