The Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences Research Division has a long-standing reputation for excellence in the study of the mind, brain, health and language. We are home to state-of-the-art research facilities including brain imaging systems (MRI, EEG, TMS), and are unique in housing four clinical research facilities on site (for autism, anxiety and depression, speech and language therapy, and dementia).
Our research is focused on three complementary themes:
Psychopathology and affective neuroscience: We have internationally recognised strengths in the development of emotion regulation and psychopathology, treatment of psychopathology, and how the brain and body interact in terms of social cognition and emotional behaviour. With a focus on translational research, we seek to advance understanding of the causes and treatment of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and autism in children and younger adults, as well as neurodegeneration and wellbeing in older adults.
Cognitive science: This broad theme focuses on language; learning, memory and forgetting; and perception. An emerging field is the study of motivation, curiosity and behaviour change, with implications for education and policymaking. Language is a particular strength of this group and we have significant expertise in bilingualism and multilingualism, language impairment, typical and atypical development, and psycholinguistics. In addition, we have expertise in 3D vision, eye movements and face perception, and we use virtual reality technology to expand our understanding of how vision and touch are brought together in perception. Researchers examine how a variety of interventions such as cognitive training, brain stimulation, and even how chewing gum help us to remember and to forget.
Personalised nutrition and applied research: Work within this theme investigates the interplay between our diet and measures of cognitive and mental health, and understanding how social, cognitive, sensory and economic factors interact to influence food choice across the lifespan. Other research investigates the development of technological aids for supporting people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, the use of plant-derived compounds for health, and contributions to building design in relation to distracting background noise and the Internet of Things.
Responding to Covid-19
OUR RESEARCH CENTRES AND CLINICS
We work closely with partners in the NHS to support three on-site clinics as well as the independent Autism Centre, bringing research on clinical disorders into lab-based settings:
- Centre for Autism
- Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN)
- Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CELM)
- Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health
- Anxiety and Depression in Young People (AnDY) Research Unit and Clinic
- Charlie Waller Institute (mental health in young people)
- Speech and Language Therapy Clinic
Development of cannabidiol as a treatment for severe childhood epilepsies
In recent years there has been a growing appreciation of the role that cannabis-based medicines can play in disease therapy. Professor Claire Williams, working with Professors Gary Stephens and Ben Whalley from the School of Pharmacy, led research to investigate the anti-convulsant and anti-epileptic potential of individual phytocannabinoids in a range of seizure and epilepsy models. This in vivo work identified the anti-convulsant potential of cannabidiol (CBD) and led to the scientific demonstration of its efficacy and safety in clinical trials in young adults with difficult-to-treat epilepsies. This has led to further clinical trials of CBD for other indications. The introduction of CBD as the medicine Epidiolex in the US (in 2018) and as Epidyolex in the EU (in 2019) was the first cannabis-derived therapeutic for the treatment for seizures resulting from this research. The team was awarded the British Pharmacological Society Sir James Black Award for Contributions to Drug Discovery 2019. Read the full story of the drug's discovery and development.
Supporting parenting to promote early child development
Some of a child’s most valuable learning takes place before they go to school. Indeed, school ‘preparedness’ strongly predicts how well a child will fare in school. Professor Peter Cooper and Professor Lynne Murray have developed an evidence-based programme to train parents from disadvantaged backgrounds to interact and share picture books with pre-school children to support their child’s development. The research in South Africa showed that mothers developed greater sensitivity and reciprocity towards their children, who in turn showed improvements in language, attention and social understanding. This programme has been adopted by the World Health Organization and used in Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, India, Brazil and Colombia. There is also ongoing work in France, Greece and Italy, as well as in the UK, demonstrating the universal appeal and application of this evidence-based intervention to promote child development.
Find out more
Professor Carien Van Reekum
Research Division Co-Lead
Telephone: +44 (0)118 378 5556
Professor Claire Williams
Research Division Co-Lead
Telephone: +44 (0) 118 378 7540
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Telephone: +44 (0) 118 378 5380