School of Psychology

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Cognition, Neuroscience and Neuroimaging (CCNNI)

CCNNI draws together our researchers in cognition and cognitive neuroscience who seek to understand the brain, cognition and behaviour in the context of psychopathology and associated risk factors. We conduct research to develop techniques for cognitive enhancement and behavioural change, to investigate attentional control and how this is affected by anxiety and worry, to understand the neural basis of psychiatric disorders and their development in young adults, to explore the mechanisms of action of drugs particularly novel psychoactive substances and the effects of cannabis on the brain, and to identify the role of omega-3 fatty acids combined with other nutrients for managing stress and anxiety in young adults. We have state-of-the-art facilities including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS).

Worry is associated with inefficient functional connectivity and activity in prefrontal and cingulate cortices during emotional interference (Brain and Behaviour, 2018)

Paul Allen

Anxiety, one of the most common psychiatric conditions in the Western world, is known to impair attentional control, or an individual’s capacity to choose what they pay attention to and what they ignore. Neuroimaging studies generally support these findings, reporting that anxiety shows increased, or inefficient, activity in certain parts of the brain—the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). In order to clarify the relationship between worry (a trait of anxiety) and the function and connectivity with these parts of the brain, this study was undertaken, showing that, when completing a task with high and low emotional interference conditions, worry was associated with increased/inefficient activity and reduced functional connectivity in ACC and DLFPC. The bottom line? Worry competes for limited processing resources when demands are high.

Lasting deficit in inhibitory control with mild traumatic brain injury (Scientific Reports, 2017)

Marco Sandrini

This study explored the extent to which mild traumatic brain injury impacts a person’s ability to focus on a complex task and inhibit unwanted actions or interfering information. 17 patients and age-matched healthy controls performed attention demanding tasks with identical stimuli but two contexts: one required only routine responses and the other with occasional response conflicts. The results show that the patients living with mild traumatic brain injury performed as well as the controls when only routine responses were required, but when the conditions included occasional response conflicts, patients with even a single concussion showed a significant slow-down in all responses and higher error rates in comparison with the controls. These results suggest that even without apparent difficulties in performing complex, attention-demanding but routine tasks, patients with mild traumatic brain injury may experience long-lasting deficits in controlling their inhibitions when situations call for rapid conflict resolutions.

Research in Social and Psychological Transformation (CREST)

Established in 2015, CREST's research in the psychological therapies aims to develop knowledge on interventions and methods that support enhancements in psychological and social wellbeing. CREST’s research is oriented around four themes: shared decisions with clients and personalisation (including the development and testing of a new psychotherapy preference tool, C-NIP); empowering children and young people; working with voices, visions, and continuing presence; and engaging with death, dying, and bereavement. A principal activity of CREST is also our psychotherapy research clinic: a fully functioning research centre with two large consulting rooms.

Humanistic counselling plus pastoral care as usual versus pastoral care as usual for the treatment of psychological distress in adolescents in UK state schools (ETHOS): a randomised controlled trial (The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, 2021)

Mick Cooper

Research led by Mick Cooper explores the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of school-based humanistic counselling for the treatment of psychological distress in young people in England.

Cracked: why psychiatry is doing more harm than good (Icon Books, 2013)

James Davies

In an effort to enlighten a new generation about its growing reliance on psychiatry, James Davies investigates why psychiatry has become the fastest-growing medical field in history; why psychiatric drugs are now more widely prescribed than ever before; and why psychiatry, without solid scientific justification, keeps expanding the number of mental disorders it believes to exist.

Applied Research and Assessment in Child and Adolescent Wellbeing (CARACAW)

CARACAW aims to improve the social and psychological wellbeing of children, adolescents, young people and their families, through innovative research into public health, health services, policy and practice and mobile technologies. Our focuses on applied family research, research related to culture and cross-cultural psychology, promoting social and psychological wellbeing via new interventions, understanding personality and early life experience, the relationship between sleep and mood, reading and learning in children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, and the psychosocial development of young athletes and parenting in sport. We also organise an annual International Conference on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology.

Transforming mental health interventions for young people

Cecilia Essau

Research led by Cecilia Essau showed that anxiety disorders which develop during adolescence can significantly predict the development of anxiety, depression and substance use disorders during adulthood and are associated with impairment in various life domains, such as poor adjustment at work and poor family relationships. Her research also established the connection between low self-esteem, cognitive dysfunction, and poor lifestyle, and the risk of developing anxiety and depression. This research has underpinned the development and dissemination of Super Skills for Life, a manualised transdiagnostic mental health intervention for children and adolescents, that has led to significant mental health improvements for young people across the globe.


Consistency of Parental and Self-Reported Adolescent Wellbeing: Evidence From Developmental Language Disorder (Frontiers in Psychology, 2021)

Rebecca Lucas

This study emphasises the necessity of allowing adolescents of all language abilities to report their own wellbeing, as their perspective does not align with that of their parents. It also highlights the importance of including the full spectrum of need when investigating the impact of language ability on consistency between proxy and self-reported wellbeing.

Animal Behaviour and Emotion Research (CABER)

CABER brings together researchers who study the social behaviour and emotionality of animals to explore the factors affecting health and mental wellbeing in such systems, informing understanding of health-related issues in modern society. We conduct research into sociality and wellbeing, emotion and welfare, evolution of cooperation, communication and coordination. Our work explores the link between sociality and wellbeing in wild macaques and Hadza hunter-gatherers, emotion, stress and welfare in a range of non-human animals (monkeys, goats, horses), communication and coordination in gregarious species, the evolution of cooperation in various species and the interrelationship between biological and cultural influences on human generosity, and provides new insights into the evolution of complex emotional capacity to inform debates around animal wellbeing.

Measuring personality in the field: An in situ comparison of personality quantification methods in wild Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) (Journal of Comparative Psychology, 2019)

Julia Lehmann

This study reflects on the methodological differences between the most popular methods for quantifying personality in animals, showing that results obtained from various methods do not show equivalent results, and suggest future comparative studies of quantification methods within similar methodological frameworks to best identify methods viable for future comparisons of personality structures in wild animals.


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