This research division studies how the brain gives rise to our perception of the world and our thoughts and cognitions about it, which together support all of our interactions with our environment. We study both the healthy adult brain and how the health and function of the brain can be influenced throughout the lifespan into old age by our diet.
We are world leaders in the use of virtual reality technology to expand our understanding of how we see the world and how vision and touch are brought together in perception. We have expertise on a number of key questions in the area of visual perception including faces, the study perception of 3D space, the role of precise control of eye movements in sampling the visual world, the mapping of sub-functions of vision onto parts of the brain using fMRI, and the development of eye movement control in infants and children.
CognitionMembers of the cognition group study various functions of memory, such as how we remember to perform a planned action or intention in the future (for example, remembering to reply to an email), and how a tune can become repetitively stuck in the mind ("earworms"). The functioning of short-term memory is studied with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
Within this group there is strong focus on the complexities of human motivation, which are studied using cutting-edge statistical techniques. Other projects study the role of self-regulation in successfully achieving goals.
The nutrition group investigates how diet can influence brain function in childhood, adulthood, and old age. Specific projects investigate the following:
- the benefits of increasing levels of dietary flavonoids (found in cocoa, berries, tea, and citrus fruits) on cognitive function, visual system function, and reading development in children
- the potential negative effects of Vitamin D deficiency, which is widespread in the population
- the effectiveness of government-led campaigns to reduce sugar intake.
- Professor Philip Beaman's research into earworms (songs that get stuck in your head) discovered that they can be partially excised by chewing gum, a discovery mentioned in the BBC website's '100 things we didn't know last year'. In collaboration with Professor Dylan Jones (Cardiff University) he was recently awarded a £450,058 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council to examine 'About distraction: Cognitive control processes in the service of distraction resistance'.
- Dr Kou Murayama recently received a SEDTC case studentship with Queen Anne's School, entitled 'Motivation Contagion at School: Do Friends or Room Mates Show Similar Motivation in Behaviour and Brain?' He has also been awarded the JSPS prize by the Japanese government.
- Dr Kate Harvey has been awarded an ESRC SEDTC case studentship
- Andrew Glennerster has been awarded two major grants. EPSRC has provided a project grant of £443,434 for `Understanding Scenes and Events through Joint Parsing, Cognitive Reasoning'. AHRC has donated a network grant of £30,982 for 'The action-based brain: a provocation to philosophy, robotics and the cognitive sciences', which will be run with James Stazicker as Principle Investigator.
Our research interests are having a direct impact on children's health and our knowledge of computer vision.
Parents who aim too high for their children at school can have a negative impact on academic performance, a new University of Reading study has found.
- Harvey, K. (2016) "When I go to bed hungry and sleep, I'm not hungry": children and parents' experiences of food insecurity. Appetite.
ISSN 0195-6663 doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.01.004
- Glennerster, A. (2015) Visual stability what is the problem? Frontiers in Psychology, 6. 958. ISSN 1664-1078 doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00958
- Lamport, D. J., Pal, D., Moutsiana, C., Field, D. T., Williams, C. M., Spencer, J. P. E. and Butler, L. T. (2015) The effect of flavanol-rich cocoa on cerebral perfusion in healthy older adults during conscious resting state: a placebo controlled, crossover, acute trial. Psychopharmacology, 232 (17). pp. 3327-3234. ISSN 0033-3158 doi: 10.1007/s00213-015-3972-4
The Department of Psychology hosts an exciting variety of seminars throughout the year: