Tagged / Psychology Research Group

Fusion Diary: High-Speed Train to China Universities

7:55am, 14th April.

BA168 landed in Shanghai Pudong International Airport. I was sponsored by Santander Fusion Investment Fund and would visit 4 top China Universities in five days. In order to board a high-speed train to Beijing, I only had five hours to have a shower, unpack my luggage, eat a Chinese lunch and then drive through Shanghai, a metropolitan city with a population of 20- million. The distance is less than that from Bournemouth to Brockenhurst. The traffic is as same as Oxford circus and Regent Street.

China High-speed Train

Mission nearly impossible. But I made it. With the help of a Chinese high-speed train, I travelled 914 miles in less than 6 hours and arrived in Beijing in time. Efficient trains like these can also be built in other countries with the help of a third rail train equipment manufacturer and many other engineers and contractors.

Next morning, I visited Renmin University, a Chinese equivalent to LSE, and gave a talk in the Psychology Department. Remin’s Psychology Department, established in 2008, is a fast-paced booming institute and has 30 staff members in total, similar in size to BU Psychology. Internationalisation was a highly frequent word I picked up from our conversation.  During my talk, I showed them the photos of Bournemouth University with beach and sunshine as well as telling about our research and courses. I met Prof Du Peng (his surname first in the Chinese way), the university research director, and Prof Hu Ping, the deputy head of Psychology Department. The discussion was successful and fruitful. and afterwards, in accordance with tradition, they hosted me a delicious Chinese lunch dinner, rather than the usual sandwiches and tea that we might have here.


Office of the President, Peking University

After saying blesses and goodbye to my kind hosts, I walked back to Peking University. Before moving to England I had spent eight years in Peking University. This was the second time I came back in the last ten years. I wandered on the  campus which was crowded with classical Chinese architectures and modern cars. There was no meeting arranged for me this time but it was lovely to be back visiting my old haunts. and to meet with old friends, all of whom have previously studied or worked in the UK. In Chinese they are called haigui, which means coming back from overseas. It is interesting that most of them are working in universities and public sector now.

My next journey on another high speed train meant travelling about 750 miles in 6 hours to Xian, the ancient Chinese capital in Han and Tang dynasties.  Since I last visited as a teenager the city has been expanding faster and more massively than I could ever have imagined. Again, it was a great opportunity to catch up with older friends before visiting  Shaanxi Normal University, a prestigious national university. I was welcome by Prof Wang Yong Hui. Prof Wang is the Deputy Head of Psychology School. We have been friends since we studied in Beijing. Now we had the opportunity to share what we have done in each other’s research areas over the years.

To be continued…..

Dr Andrew Mayers’ research on children’s sleep receives excellent media coverage

Throughout November, the work that Dr Andrew Mayers (a Senior Lecturer in Psychology, in the school of Design, Engineering and Computing) has been doing with children’s sleep has been receiving a great deal of attention on national television and on national and local radio. Over the last few years, Andrew has been running a series of sleep workshops with parents, in a unique partnership with Winton Primary School and Barnardo’s Bournemouth Children’s Centres. Over that time, there have been several reports in the local press about the work, but it is only in the last six months that this has received national attention, starting in July with articles in the Times Educational Supplement (TES: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6264998) and Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2180003/Parents-offered-child-sleep-classes-pupils-turn-lessons-tired.html) and a live interview with Talk Radio Europe (http://www.talkradioeurope.com/clients/amayers.mp3). However, it is this last month that the attention has become more intense, with two features on national television and four live interviews on BBC radio (including one session at 12.30am!).

ITV Daybreak, November 1st: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd_OaMieSks

BBC Radio 5 Live, Drive show, November 16th http://www.andrewmayers.info/Radio5Nov162012.mp3

BBC Radio 5 Live, Tony Livesey late night show, November 21st http://www.andrewmayers.info/Radio5Nov212012.mp3

BBC1 Breakfast/BBC News Channel, November 21st http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20423289

BBC Radio Sheffield, November 21st http://www.andrewmayers.info/RadioSheffieldNov212012.mp3

BBC Radio Solent, November 21st http://www.andrewmayers.info/RadioSolentNov212012.mp3

Andrew has been reflecting on these experiences. He said “I am extremely grateful for the incredibly hard work put in to these workshops by Pat Bate at Winton Primary School and Patrick Ives at Barnardo’s – without them this would not have happened. It is also testimony to the effectiveness of a good personal web page. Much of the initial media attention came about because a journalist was conducting research online about children’s sleep, and found my web page. The rest is history!”

Andrew’s website can be found at: www.andrewmayers.info

Andrew also said “Once a website like this is established, it is important to keep it updated, especially when there is a chance of media attention. A few days after the BBC features, I noticed that visits to my website increased six-fold in the first day, and is still well above normal levels of traffic. As a result of the media attention and increased web site visits, I have established several potentially very lucrative new partnerships with leading academics in the field, some with a very high profile media presence. I also received support and requests for collaboration with several educational psychologists and other professionals across the UK”.

Research by BU’s Dr Andrew Mayers will appear on ITV Daybreak this Thursday

In a bid to tackle children’s sleep problems, BU’s Dr Andrew Mayers in the School of Design, Engineering and Computing, has been running workshops for parents at Bournemouth primary schools for several years now. The workshops started because staff at Winton Primary School noticed that pupils were struggling to get through the day without falling asleep, and were often difficult to engage because of tiredness. Andrew welcomed the opportunity to work with the school, an activity that reflects the ambition of the university to undertake more public engagement. The success of these workshops have been receiving a great deal of national media attention, with previously reported features in the Daily Mail, TES, and an interview with Talk Radio Europe. To follow on from that, Andrew’s work with children’s sleep at Winton Primary School will feature on ITV Daybreak on Thursday November 1st, as part of a series that the channel is showing across the week. It is due to be aired at around 6.50am. While Andrew welcomes the media attention, he hopes that this will help publicise his ambition to develop a professional online resource for children’s sleep, working in collaboration with some of the leading UK sleep charities.

Intranasal inhalation of oxytocin improves eye-witness identification: RDF grant report

In 2011 myself and Ben Parris from the Psychology Research Centre were awarded a small RDF grant to investigate whether intranasal inhalation of the hormone oxytocin can improve eye-witness identification.  We designed an experiment where participants viewed a short video-clip of a perpetrator stealing a wallet from someone’s bag.  Participants then inhaled either an oxytocin or placebo nasal spray, and after a 45 minute interval to allow central oxytocin levels to plateau, were presented with a line-up of ten faces from which they had to either select the perpetrator or state that he was absent.  To date we have tested 70 participants and found a facilitation in the oxytocin condition.  In a second experiment, we asked participants to complete the ‘One-in-Ten’ task, a test of spontaneous eye-witness memory that has been well-used in previous work.  Again, we found a clear facilitation in performance in the oxytocin condition.

These findings follow recent work that has demonstrated that oxytocin can improve face recognition performance in standard cognitive tasks in lab-based settings.  In addition, work from our lab is currently under review for publication demonstrating that oxytocin can improve face recognition in individuals with prosopagnosia (face blindness).  This RDF grant has therefore given us the funding to carry out key investigations demonstrating novel applications of oxytocin inhalation in more applied settings.

I also presented findings from the oxytocin project at the April meeting of the Experimental Psychological Society, and was delighted to meet Dr Markus Bindemann from the University of Kent who is something of an expert in eye-witness identification.  We are now collaborating with Markus, and have plans to develop a bid to the Leverhulme Trust on the back of the publications that we hope will result from these investigations.  We are also about to welcome a new PhD student to our lab, who will be further developing the forensic aspect of this work in more real-world national security settings.

The pump-priming that was made available to us via the RDF scheme has provided us with the opportunity to collect the initial data and publication basis that we need to develop a large external bid, and we hope that this is the beginning of a fruitful line of research for our laboratory.

Reducing sleep problems in children – BU’s Dr Andrew Mayers’ research features in the TES

Over the past couple of years BU’s Dr Andrew Mayers in the School of Design, Engineering and Computing, has been working with Bouremouth primary schools to try and reduce sleep problems in school children. Working in schools, sleep is probably the most common problem that is reported by teachers, head-teachers and staff, and Andrew stresses the importance of all children receiving enough sleep to prevent adverse effects on their education and health. He is currently studying the effects of CBD Gummies For Sleep after school staff noticed pupils were struggling to get through the day without falling asleep.

Andrew is currently exploring the possibility of conducting studies that examine the mental health and well-being of children, including how poor sleep affects their emotional, cognitive, social and educational development. He hopes the outcomes will help to offer a clearer understanding of the implications of sleep deprivation in children.

You can read the full TES article here: Can’t sleep, won’t sleep (published 27 July 2012).

Andrew’s research also featured in the Daily Mail: Parents offered ‘get your child to sleep’ classes as pupils turn up to lessons too tired (published 27 July 2012).

Andrew’s website is available here: http://andrewmayers.info/

BU’s Sarah Bate talks about developmental prosopagnosia at Birkbeck College

In September 2011 BU’s Dr Sarah Bate was invited to talk at a Face-Blindness Open Day at Birkbeck College.  The event was attended by people with prosopagnosia (face blindness) from all over the world and the media.  The other keynote speakers were big names in the face processing world: Brad Duchaine (Dartmouth College), Tim Valentine (Goldsmiths) and Martin Eimer (Birkbeck).

You can watch an excellent video of Sarah’s presentation here:


Psychology Research Seminars

Thursday 19 January

Dr Martin Corley (University of Edinburgh) speaking on “To ‘er’ is human”

 Thursday 16 February

Dr Erik Reichle (University of Southampton) speaking on “E-Z Reader: A model of eye-movement control during reading”

 Thursday 15 March

Dr Falko Sniehotta (Newcastle University) speaking about behaviour change and health (title to be announced).

 All the seminars are held in room K101, Kimmeridge House, Talbot Campus, and start at 4pm (lasting about an hour including discussion). They are free to attend and no pre-booking is required – just turn up on the day. Full details and abstracts can be found at: http://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/prc/seminars.html

Bournemouth University research into prosopagnosia (face blindness)

Prosopagnosia – or ‘face blindness’ – is a little known condition affecting 1 in 50 people. As Bournemouth University psychology lecturer Dr Sarah Bate explains, it is ‘literally a loss of memory for faces’.

Speaking to BBC Inside Out’s Jon Cuthill, Dr Bate said: “Prosopagnosia sufferers know what a face is. They know the basic configuration of a face, but they absolutely fail to indentify individuals, no matter how close those people are to them.”

Dr Bate and her team at Bournemouth University have developed a brand new test to identify how good people are at face recognition. It works by processing patterns in eye movement whilst looking at a face.

The findings show that in control trials, participants scan the face in a triangular pattern, looking at the eyes, nose and mouth. In contrast, prosopagnosia sufferers compensate for their lack of recognition by looking at external features of the face, such as the ears and hair.

You can find out more about BournemouthUniversity’s research into the condition by watching Dr Bate’s recent interview on BBC Inside Out. The feature is 11 minutes in.


You can test yourself for prosopagnosia at Sarah’s website: www.prosopagnosiaresearch.org.


Dr Sarah Bate’s research will feature on BBC One tonight!

A couple of months ago we ran a blog post about the amazing research into prosopagnosia (face blindness) being undertaken at Bournemouth University by Dr Sarah Bate (‘Find out about Dr Sarah Bate’s research into prosopagnosia‘).

Sarah will feature on tonight’s Inside Out – South show, at 7:30pm, discussing the condition with presenter Jon Cuthill and people diagnosed with prosopagnosia.

You can see a quick peek at Sarah’s research on tonight’s show here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-15290378

You can test yourself for prosopagnosia at Sarah’s website: www.prosopagnosiaresearch.org.

Mental Health Research and Community Programmes

As part of Mental Health Week here at BU Dr Andrew Mayers from DEC has highlighted some of the work he is undertaking with local groups.

FirstPoint (Winton)

Run by Bournemouth Borough Council, FirstPoint work with community residents who have a range of mental health problems. Many of these individuals are not cared for by health services, often by choice. Using the ‘recovery model’ for mental health, the trained staff work to re-engage individuals and help them rebuild their lives. In the recovery model, individuals are shown how to regain enough self-confidence to find the coping skills and resources to return to better mental health. I am working with FirstPoint on a number of projects. We are evaluating outcomes in one-year longitudinal study, with BU students collecting and analysing the data. We aim to publish the outcomes in 2012/13. We also are working on arranging a series of work-experience placements for undergraduate and postgraduate students. Over the last months, FirstPoint have been working on a DVD that illustrates the benefits of the recovery model for mental health. The DVD will be used to inform mental health workers; I have made a contribution to that DVD. We will be launching the DVD for FirstPoint at BU in November.

Bournemouth and District Samaritans

The work undertaken by the Samaritans across the UK and Ireland is well known. The central focus of their work is to be a ‘listening ear’ to anyone experiencing despair, loneliness, or feeling suicidal. They are available 24-hours a day, every day of the year, via telephone, text, e-mail, letter, or face-to-face. I work very closely with the Bournemouth and District branch, acting as their Patron and I organise their publicity. We are working on a number of local projects, not least looking to establish closer ties between BU and the Samaritans. A number of our students volunteer to work at the Branch. The Samaritans have a presence at several BU events. We are currently working with several people at BU to establish a crisis nightline, and training (any) staff who have contact with students who may need emergency help (we have already had some crises with the current BU student intake). We are also looking to work closely with other agencies and charities locally. Some of this may lead to research opportunities, exploring ways in which mental illness, stress and despair can be reduced in our community. I am planning a number of projects focusing on suicide and mental health (including the particular problems faced in rural communities).

Barnardo’s (and Bournemouth Borough Council)

I am working with Barnardo’s Family Centres, in conjunction with Bournemouth Borough’s education services, to investigate the impact of maternal mental illness on young children. We are particularly interested in exploring attachment and mother-child interactions. We will be evaluating current programmes and working together on new ones. We have established a working party, with a view to design several research studies, and to explore sources of grant funding.

Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust

I am supervising a PhD project (Research student – Lauren Kita), working with the perinatal team within Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust. We are exploring the extent that poor sleep may pose a risk factor for postnatal depression. We will be examining sleep objectively, using state-of-the-art EEG equipment, and subjectively, using sleep diaries. Women with a history of depression will compared to women without such a history, during pregnancy and at weeks 4 and 12 after the baby is born. The mother’s mood and other mental indicators will also be measured.

International Cultic Studies Association /New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling

I am working with a Chartered Counselling Psychologist to explore mental health of individuals who were born into exclusive cults (i.e. they did not decide to join that cult). Through this contact, and the International Cultic Studies Association (ISCA) we have access to several hundred former members. We will be using a series of questionnaires that measure key factors such as current mental illness, trauma, self-efficacy, coping skills, and general life function. We will present the findings at the Annual ISCA Conference in Montreal next summer. Several papers will be published soon afterwards.

If you would like to find out more about this work please contact Andrew Mayers.

Find out about Dr Samuel Nyman’s research into the psychosocial aspects of falls and their prevention in older people

Research by Age UK estimates that falls amongst older people in the UK could be costing the NHS in excess of £4.6m a day, with up to one in three people over 65 falling each year. Falls account for over 50% of hospital admissions among the over 70s, with around 14,000 older people dying annually in the UK after a fall. Evidence suggests that if older people regularly take part in exercise specially designed to improve strength and balance then their risk of falls can be cut by up to 55%. Dr Samuel Nyman in the Psychology Research Group (DEC) undertakes research primarily focused on the psychosocial aspects of falls and their prevention in older people, and has a particular interest in helping older people become physically active to prevent falls. His work has focused on how internet-based falls prevention advice can be made more motivating and inspiring for older people, and he was invited as a guest speaker to present his research at Arthritis Research UK’s Musculoskeletal Educators Conference in June 2011.

Samuel is part of a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, led by Prof Marcus Ormerod at the University of Salford, who have been awarded funding from the MRC-led cross-council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing programme to conduct a year-long pilot study called: “Go Far (Going Outdoors: Falls, Ageing and Resilience)”. Go Far starts in January 2012 and will investigate the role of the outdoor environment in shaping health inequalities, explore older people’s experiences of falling outdoors, develop and test tools and techniques to evaluate the relationship between at-risk people and the outdoor environment, and develop a clear road map for future cross-disciplinary research in this area. The project will also involve experts from Age UK, the UK Health and Safety Laboratory, and Toronto Rehab.

Working with Dr Claire Ballinger (University of Southampton) and Prof Judith Phillips (Swansea University), Samuel’s contribution will be to explore through focus groups older people’s perceptions of the key risk factors for falling in the outdoor environment. This aspect of the project will lead to an understanding of the environmental risk factors which have yet to be accounted for in the current evidence base. Overall, the project will develop a greater understanding of the many factors involved in outdoor falls and create practical tools which will significantly help older people’s health and wellbeing.

Prior to this project Samuel undertook a systematic review of older people’s participation in falls prevention interventions. Earlier this year Samuel presented this research at a symposium in Italy for the European Congress of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics, which he also co-chaired. He will also present this work as one of the six selected oral presentations at the forthcoming 12th International Conference on Falls and Postural Stability to be held in Manchester on 9 September 2011. The work has also been published as two journal articles in Age and Ageing, a leading international geriatrics journal:

Samuel is currently developing a website to use with older people later this year with the aim of identifying further (with the use of psychological theory) what are the best ways of communicating falls prevention advice to older people to facilitate their ability to continue to lead healthy, independent, and active lifestyles.

Find out about Dr Sarah Bate’s research into prosopagnosia

Prosopagnosia, or face blindness, refers to a severe deficit in recognizing familiar people from their face. The condition affects people in different ways with some experiencing difficulties in the recognition of faces and others experiencing problems recognising other things, such as objects, cars, or animals, as well as faces. Many of those people diagnosed with prosopagnosia report difficulties in other aspects of face processing, such as judging age or gender, and the majority report navigational difficulties. Dr Sarah Bate is a neuropsychologist working in BU’s Psychology Research Group and has been researching the condition for a number of years.

The condition might be more common than previously thought with one study suggesting that as many as 2.5% of the population might have developmental prosopagnosia.

Working with Dr Brad Duchaine (Dartmouth College), Sarah is developing and testing some intervention programmes that might improve face processing in prosopagnosia. Sarah has set up a website (www.prosopagnosiaresearch.org) to raise awareness of prosopagnia and to recruit candidates for her research. Sarah has devised an online test of face recognition ability which can be taken via the website. I took the test last night and highly recommend that others have a go. To date almost 4,000 people worldwide have taken the test. At the end of the test you will be given the option to register your details to visit Sarah at BU for a more formal assessment. During formal assessments Sarah makes use of BU’s eye-tracking technology to assess how prosopagnosics visually read faces.

Sarah is also interested in whether face blindness is hereditary and physiological rather than psychological. She is colaborating with genetics researchers to test families of prosopagnosics and examine any links. The research is ongoing, but initial findings suggest prosopagnia is hereditry, but not always. Sarah’s research aims to identify the sub-types and various causes of prosopagnia, and to improve public understanding of the condition, as well as increasing the early diagnosis of the condition in children.

The Psychology Research Group are always looking for volunteers to take part in their research (example projects include navigation and ageing, children’s language and literature development, and poor sleep in school children). To find out more, visit the psychology volunteers section on the Group’s website.

Sarah’s research has recently been featured in the Guardian. You can read the full story here: Researchers explore problems of ‘face blindness’

You can test yourself for prosopagnosia at Sarah’s website: www.prosopagnosiaresearch.org