How does the brain give rise to our perception of the world and our thoughts and cognitions about it? How does this 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 use 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 in 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.
The cognition group study 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’). There is also a 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. For example, our researchers have worked in collaboration with several partner organisations over recent years to explore the effects of flavonoids (found in cocoa, berries, tea, and citrus fruits) on cognitive and mental health. Our research has shown that consuming flavonoid-rich blueberries may improve attention in children. We also investigate the potential negative effects of Vitamin D deficiency, which is widespread in the population the effectiveness of government-led campaigns to reduce sugar intake.
Find out more
Do performance-related cash bonuses work?
Psychologists at the University of Reading, are investigating psychological theories regarding motivation and cognition from the neural level to the social level. A research group led by associate professor Dr Kou Murayama tested people’s expectations of the effect of incentives, and found most firmly believed they result in improved future performance. The study follows earlier research that found, while offering financial or other rewards can lead to a short-term improvement, the recipients are in fact often less interested in completing the task well in future. The team suggests rewards actually undermine motivation, by triggering a subconscious feeling in the recipient that their autonomy is being threatened.
How eating wild blueberries affects cognitive ability
Researchers within the School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences have been investigating the positive effects consuming blueberries may have on primary school children’s memory and concentration.
Flavonoids, compounds found naturally in foods such as fruits and their juices, vegetables and tea have been associated with a range of health benefits including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. In a study, the first of its kind, a group of 21 children aged 7 to 10 given a drink containing either a high dose of wild blueberry, a low dose, or a placebo. They were given a series of cognitive tests examining memory and attention before consumption of the drink and then at 1h 15mins, 3 and 6 hours later. Improvement in memory recall after consumption suggest wild blueberries could strengthen the performance of primary schoolchildren in class.
Embark on a postgraduate programme at the School of Psychology and Speech Language Therapy and benefit from a vibrant and supportive research environment, staffed by internationally recognised researchers.
Find out more
Whyte, A. R., Schafer, G. and Williams, C. M. (2017) The effect of cognitive demand on performance of an executive function task following wild blueberry supplementation in 7 to 9 year old children. Food & Function, 8 (11). pp. 4129-4138. ISSN 2042-650X doi: https://doi.org/10.1039/c7fo00832e
Hanczakowski, M., Beaman, C. P. and Jones, D. (2018) Learning through clamor: the allocation and perception of study time in noise. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147 (7). pp. 1005-1022. ISSN 1939-2222
Raskin, S. A., Shum, D. H. K., Ellis, J., Pereira, A. and Mills, G. (2018) A comparison of laboratory, clinical and self-report measures of prospective memory in healthy adults and individuals with brain injury. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Psychology, 40 (5). pp. 423-436. ISSN 1744-411X
Gootjes-Dreesbach, L., Pickup, L. C., Fitzgibbon, A. W. and Glennerster, A. (2017) Comparison of view-based and reconstruction-based models of human navigational strategy. Journal of Vision, 17 (9). 11. ISSN 1534-7362
Biotti, F., Gray, K. L. H. and Cook, R. (2017) Impaired body perception in developmental prosopagnosia. Cortex, 93. pp. 41-49. ISSN 0010-9452