School of Psychology Research

Clinical research

Many researchers in the School of Psychology study clinical conditions in which aspects of cognition, such as attention, memory and mood, may be affected.  We have access to state-of-the art imaging and genetic methodologies via facilities at the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre and the MRC Centre in Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics in Cardiff, respectively.  

Our research has strong translational impact, and aims to provide better knowledge about cognition in disease, as well as supporting the development of tools for early diagnosis and improving quality of life.  

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We have strong collaborative links with other departments in Cardiff University (Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical NeuroscienceBiosciences and Institute of Medical Genetics), as well as with other institutions (FMRIB, Oxford University, ICN, London UniversityImperial College London).

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Fertility, Child Development and Childhood Disorders

A number of researchers work on research questions to do with fertility, child development & childhood disorders.

Cardiff Fertility Studies
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Helping you become in-Psych and in-Sync with your fertility potential. We study all aspects of fertility health to better understand the experiences of men and women trying to become parents. Click here for further information.

Wales Autism Research Centre
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Advancing scientific understanding to create positive change. Wales Autism Research Centre (WARC) was initiated through a unique collaboration between Autism Cymru and Autistica, the School of Psychology, Cardiff University and the Welsh Assembly Government. Click here for further information.



Antisocial behaviour in yougsters with ADHD
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Antisocial behaviour and Conduct Disorder (CD) are the most common childhood mental health problems. They also lead to problems in adult life. Childhood-onset CD accompanied by ADHD appears to be especially important, but currently available treatments do not appear to have long-term benefits. Although family and social factors all contribute to antisocial behaviour, inherited factors also seem important. Interestingly, a gene variant that affects a brain enzyme called COMT has been found to be associated with antisocial behaviour in children with ADHD.

The South London Child Development Study

A 16+ year study of children who were born in two of the most disadvantaged boroughs of the UK from their mothers' pregnancies through the final year of GCSEs.  We have focused especially on mothers' and children's mental health and children's educational outcomes.

Impulse control disorders and antisociality

Impulse Control Disorders in Parkinson’s Disease: Reward Systems Gone Awry?

Our work on neurocognitive mechanisms of self-control in healthy populations and normal range personality variation is complemented by clinical work on Impulse Control Disorders (ICDs) in Parkinson’s disease.

Use of implicit measures in forensic and clinical settings

In many situations, and particularly those related to forensic settings, the use of self-report measures may have limited value due to limited insight and deliberate dissimulation.  Our laboratory has pioneered the use of implicit measurements of cognitions in these settings.  Previous projects have looked at their use in psychopathic murders and in paedophiles. 

Neuropsychology and serious offending behaviour

This on-going project looks at many aspects of personality and neuropsychology in relation to offending behaviours. This includes neuropsychological measurement of cognitive functions relating to emotional processing, impulsivity, intelligence, and executive functions. These are complemented by self-report measurements of personality and behaviours (e.g., impulsivity). These studies have a particular emphasis on the concept of psychopathy.

A number of researchers work on research questions to do with impluse control disorders and antiosociality, including:     

Service Evaluation of Pastoral Cymru Personality Disorder Service

Ty Catrin opened as a low secure service of those with a Personality Disorder in October 2009. As part of their service Pastoral Cymru invited Professor Snowden to help design the assessment schedule for the patients and the monitoring of behaviours and incidents, with a view to providing the service with a world-class system of assessment and monitoring. The ensuing database is used to guide individual patient management and reporting, as well as providing the service with information about its clients, demographics and incidents.

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Mental health

A number of researchers work on research questions to do with mental health, including:

Genetic imaging: Biomarkers for mental disorders

Mental disorders such as schizophrenia or depression are defined at the level of clinical presentation but relatively little is known about the underlying changes in the brain. Such knowledge would be important for better diagnosis and treatment. Considerable progress has been made recently in the identification of genetic variants that may confer a (usually small) risk for a mental disorder, and we collaborate with colleagues in the Dept. of Psychological Medicine who lead these international genetic studies in order to understand the biological effects of these genetic changes in patients and healthy people. We use brain imaging tools that are non-invasive can thus can be applied in human studies. These are housed in the CUBRIC neuroimaging centre.

Mental state decoding in dysphoric college students

This is a study of the ability of people to judge the mental state of another person (for example, is she feeling anxious?) on the basis of minimal cues (a still photograph of the eye region of the face). We compared two samples of university students, one attending the university’s counselling service, the other a control group. A subsample of the counseling group was retested after a fourth session of counselling. 

Outcome of patients in medium secure Units

This project aims to look at both the make-up of patients within medium secure services as well as their outcome when discharged from these units. The project has been on-going for nearly 10 years and has built up a large database of information relating to PiC’s services. This is used both as a test-bed for the prediction of behaviours, but also as an audit of its services and changes to it.  

Risk of Suicide Protocol (RoSP): field test of a structured professional judgement for the prediction of suicide

RoSP is a structured professional judgment scheme written by us (Snowden and Gray) for the prediction and management off suicide risk in high-risk populations.  This study aims to see if this instrument is predictive of suicidal behaviours (attempted suicides, etc.) in a population thought to be at high-risk. 

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Neurofeedback and depression & addiction

Dysfunctional emotion regulation is a key aspect of depression. At the behavioural level depressed patients tend to adopt malfunctioning regulatory strategies. Recent research has revealed brain correlates of such problems with emotion regulation in brain areas devoted to emotion processing and cognitive control. Neurofeedback offers a way to train patients to control their brain activity in emotion processing areas. The aim of this study is to see whether patients can become successful in regulating their own brain activity and whether this alleviates their symptoms. In addition, the possibility to combat addiction with neurofeedback is being investigated.

Cognitive symptoms in depression

Besides their well-known affective disturbances, depressed persons show a number of cognitive symp-toms as well. Depressed individuals are often very diligent and accurate in their attempts to work on intellectual tasks. They are meticulous in processing information at the detail level and perform very well in simple tasks requiring effort or vigilance. On the other hand, depressed mood is associated with impairments in generating a clear picture of an overall situation, in gaining an overview about a problem at a large scale, or in constructing a clear representation of a decision or a social situation. 

Pre-clinical modelling of psychosis

Animal models are used extensively in the development of new pharmacological therapeutic techniques. However, this research strategy can only be successful if the models truely reflect key aspects of the disorders involved. Anhedonia (a reduction in the pleasureable responses to rewarding stimuli) is a key symptom of disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. In collaboration with researchers from Eli Lilly I am investigating the degree to which putative animal models of schizophrenia actually produce an analogue of the anhedonic state seen in people with schizophrenia.

Epilepsy

A number of researchers work on research questions to do with epilepsy, including:

Advanced brain imaging in childhood epilepsy (ABICE)

This project began in October 2010. Children suffering from rolandic epilepsy, also known as benign epilepsy of childhood with centro-temporal spikes (BECCTS), have a good prognosis and usually recover from epilepsy by their mid-teens. However, potential links (perhaps due to location of the epileptic tissue close to the motor cortex) between this type of epilepsy and problems with fine motor control (developmental discoordination disorder - DCD) and reading/writing may impact upon children’s schooling.

Transient Epileptic Amnesia

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions, and frequently affects memory.  In collaboration with Dr Chris Butler (Oxford University) and Prof Adam Zeman (Exeter University), we have worked on a recently described epilepsy called transient epileptic amnesia (TEA, seeTime website).  In this condition seizures typically begin later in life, often occur upon waking and associated with unusual memory difficulties, in particular rapid forgetting of information and a loss of memory for events from the past.

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Magnetoencephalographic measures of abnormal sensory oscillations: A new window on photosensitive epilepsy
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It is well known that flashing lights can bring on seizures in certain types of epilepsy. Precisely why this happens remains unclear but it seems to be related to nerve cells firing together in abnormal ways. Abnormal nerve cell firing or synchronisation plays a key role in all epileptic seizures, and this is seen as abnormal frequency oscillations before or during seizures. 

 

Amnesia

A number of researchers in the School are interested in the causes and neural basis of memory impairment, including:

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Material-specific memory deficits in amnesia

Memory loss is a frequent consequence of brain injury (e.g., stroke, encephalitis, head injury, dementia and epilepsy), and can have a detrimental impact on independent living, financial wellbeing and social/emotional relationships. In this project, we aim to understand how memory breaks down after damage to two structures in the brain - the hippocampus and perirhinal cortex - with the aim of developing a better model for how particular brain illnesses impact on memory performance. 

Importance of mammillary body connections for memory

Memories form a crucial part of every aspect of our lives: being able to draw on past memories as well as form new memories goes towards making us individual. It is, therefore, a major goal of neuroscience to understand the neural systems that support memory. The overwhelming majority of memory research has focused on the hippocampus, though historically it is the case that other, related regions such as the medial diencephalon have long been implicated in memory. 

Ageing and diseases of old age

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We work on a number of disorders associated with old age, including Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia and Parkinson's disease. We are also interested in normal ageing, including what factors contribute to successful ageing.

Neurofeedback and Parkinson

We develop protocols for the clinical application of real-time functional imaging. Through this method patients can observe their brain activity in specific regions in real time, and they can be trained in the self-regulation of this activity. We are investigating whether this method of “neurofeedback training” can be used to improve Parkinson’s disease.

Spatial perception and memory as a marker of increased genetic risk of Alzheimer's disease

This project is a collaborative partnership between Cardiff University (Psych and MRC CNGG) and Swansea University (Psych). The study asks how newly discovered genes, associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in later life, influence brain function (e.g., memory and attention), brain structure (e.g., white matter tracts) and physiology (e.g., inflammatory markers) in healthy young non-symptomatic individuals.

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Attention, Alzheimer's disease and normal aging

This project is looking for dysfunction of attentional systems in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)  and in a possible pre-cursor to AD known as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).  We use tasks that tap both the movement of attention, and the phasic alerting systems to show that attentional dysfunction is apparent in AD and is often measurable before the onset of other symptoms (e.g., memory loss).  We are currently investigating brain systems that maybe affected in these conditions.

Visio-spatial Attentio in Early Dementia

To better understand how early dementia often comes with attention deficits, we combine standard behavioural measures of visuo-spatial attention (covert attention orienting and alerting) with brain imaging techniques on patients with Alzheimer’s disease or vascular cognitive impairment.