Professor Huw Williams has authored a major new report on the impact that acquired brain injuries can have on young people in childhood and in their transition to adulthood.

The Cogniton group has taken part in conducting major study in a Care Home in Taunton, looking at the effects of involving groups of residents in the redecoration of residential lounges.

Professor Ian McLaren has led a study that has discovered the human subconscious has a bigger impact than previously thought on how we respond to danger.

Dr Natalia Lawrence has led a study that has found snack consumption and BMI are linked to both brain activity and self-control.

Professor Frederick Verbruggen has led a study that shows that people can train their brains to become less impulsive, resulting in less risk-taking during gambling.

Cognition research group

Research impact

What kind of impact are we having through our research? In fact, our work is making a difference in all kinds of ways.

Reminiscence can improve memory performance

Reflecting on our past experiences (including our school days, growing up and the war) can improve the memories of elderly people in care, provided this is done in small groups.

A 2009 study looked at the impact of social group interventions, such as reminiscence, on the health and well-being of 73 people residing in care. After a period of six weeks the researchers found that people who took part in a reminiscence group showed a 12% increase in their memory performance, while those who received individual reminiscence showed no change.

The study led by Catherine Haslam will appear in Psychology and Aging and has been widely covered in the media, including this article in the Guardian.

Group memberships play a important a role in stroke recovery

A 2008 study explored the role that social groups play in protecting well-being during recovery from stroke. It was found that people with a wider network of social groups (family, work and community groups) reported 20% higher well-being than people without these networks.

Critically, this was because people with a wider social network were more likely to hang on to some of their social groups after their stroke. The protective impact was considerable — for every group that a person was able to retain, well-being increased by about 12%. The researchers argued that this highlighted the “importance of having your eggs in multiple baskets as its more likely that some of those eggs will remain intact after a life changing event

This study led by Catherine Haslam appears in 'Neuropsychological Rehabilitation' and has been widely covered in the media, including this article in the Independent.

On the basis of what is now a very large body of research we would urge the medical community to recognise the key role that participation in group life can play in protecting our mental and physical health. It’s much cheaper than medication, with far fewer side effects, and is also much more enjoyable.

Dr Catherine Haslam

Should Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) be taken into account within prison systems?

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a major cause of disability in children and working age adults. TBI can lead to problems in attention, memory, planning and behaviour as well as problems with anger management and impulse control.  Prof Williams and colleagues have shown that rates of injury are quite high in prison populations.  For  both adults and adolescents.  They also found that offenders who had had TBI were more likely to be imprisoned at a younger age and to have re-offended. It is likely that they have difficulty in changing behaviour patterns because of their cognitive problems. These findings have been presented to various groups – including All Party Parliamentary Groups on Head Injury and Prison Health. Prof Williams’ group is now involved in exploring how TBI can be taken account of within prison systems. Particularly to enable affected offenders to be able to manage their behaviour and emotions more effectively.

Consequences of brain injury

Research by the Cognition Group has identified a series of societal impacts resulting from traumatic brain injury (TBI) which is being used to inform policy. Work has included uncovering the high incidence of brain injury in young offenders as detailed above. There are a number of other significant interventions which are having practical benefits for practitioners and users:

  • Neurocognitive profiling – e.g. in sports concussion and in encephalitis (with the Encephalitis Society) and represented on the Sports Concussion group for the Jockey Club (now Horse Racing Regulatory Authority) as part of a CASE studentship.
  • fMRI Imaging of brain activation in pain conditions with colleagues in Medical Physics and from Rheumatology at the RD&E.
  • Family and parenting issues post-brain injury.
  • Identifying and managing mood disorders (e.g. post traumatic stress) after brain injury.
  • Identity, memory and traumatic experiences and development of post-traumatic stress disorder with SEEORG.