Professor Stephen Monsell is an experimental cognitive psychologist with interests in human attention and performance, psycholinguistics and working memory.
Professor Ian McLaren's interests include learning, memory, cognition and control with an emphasis on computational modelling.
Frederick Verbruggen

Professor Frederick Verbruggen investigates the psychological and neural mechanisms of cognitive control processes.

Professor Huw Williams works with NHS and charity sector groups to identify areas of neuro-cognitive disorder and emotional distress after various forms of acquired brain injury. His group develops treatment and management approaches to address these issues at individual and social-policy levels.

Professor Chris Code is interested in the neuropsychology of language, speech, action, calculation, emotion and the evolution of language and speech.

Cognition research group

Key research areas

The current research of the group falls under three main headings:

In addition, the group has a history of research in psycholinguistics and developmental psychology, and there are projects that cut across or combine these interests. The armoury of research methods we use includes:  behavioural testing of normal participants and neurological patients, EEG/ERP, fMRI, eye-tracking, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and psychophysiological measures.

Associative Learning and Memory

(Ian McLaren, Fraser Milton)

The major research focus of this sub-group is fundamental processes of learning in humans and in other animals. 

The central theme of Ian McLaren’s research has been the development of a computational theory of perceptual learning, stimulus representation, and associability processes, derived initially from research on infra-humans, and now applied to a wide range of phenomena in human learning and performance.  To what extent can this elemental associative model account for human cognition, and to what extent do we need to appeal to symbolic rule-based processes? He and his collaborators have addressed this issue in experiments on (among other cognitive skills) discrimination learning and generalisation, causal learning, sequence learning, memory for faces, categorisation (with Fraser Milton), retrospective re-evaluation, recognition memory for recent occurrences, and performance in task-switching situations (the last two with Stephen Monsell).

Fraser Milton also works on categorisation, especially free classification, and the relative contributions of quick and automatic holistic processing versus rule-based analytic processing. He has also been working with Adam Zeman (see below) on  unusual memory deficits — autobiographical amnesia and accelerated forgetting - seen in temporal lobe epilepsy.

Control of Cognition

(Stephen Monsell, Aureliu Lavric, Frederick Verbruggen) - see also Natalia Lawrence and Barney Dunn in the Clinical group.

We use behavioural and neuroscience techniques such as reaction time measurement, fMRI, EEG/ERP, eyetracking and TMS to investigate the processes by which we organise and regulate cognitive processes, especially in situations where multiple sources of information compete for attention and control of behaviour. This work has potential applications to understanding clinical disorders of control (e.g. ADHD, OCD) and emotion regulation,  socially problematic behaviours such as  risk-taking and compulsive gambling,  and performance limitations and sources of error in multitasking environments.

Stephen Monsell works on the executive processes that organise the mind/brain to accomplish one particular task out of the many currently afforded by the environment, mostly in experiments which require people to switch frequently between cognitive tasks.  His behavioural research investigating the sources of task switch costs, the ability to prepare for a change of tasks and the impact of associations between stimuli, cues and tasks, has led to recent TMS studies and to collaboration with Aureliu Lavric examining electrophysiological and eyetracking indices of task preparation and the processing locus of switch costs.  Monsell and Lavric also investigate switching between languages and between linguistic and other kinds of processing.

In addition, Aureliu Lavric has examined electrophysiological signatures of interference due to a stimulus having a prior association with another task, and deliberate withholding of responses (in "no-go" paradigms). His methodological interests include statistical analysis of EEG/ERP data, simultaneous EEG-fMRI, multivariate temporal and spatial analysis of eye-movement data, and modelling of multi-stable systems.

Frederick Verbruggen uses a number of behavioural paradigms, including stop-signal and dual-task experiments, to probe control processes such as response inhibition, updating of working-memory contents and task rules, and mitigation of interference from irrelevant input. He uses TMS to locate brain regions associated with specific control functions.  In recent work he has examined the associative learning of stimulus-goal relations, proactive adjustments of response strategy in anticipation of future control demands, and the relationship between laboratory indices of control and risk-taking and gambling.

Clinical Neuropsychology

(Anna Adlam, Huw Williams)

Anna Adlam works on memory and executive function disorders following brain injury. Her research interests include investigating theoretical models of memory and executive processes, and developing and evaluating neurocognitive interventions. Current studies include evaluating working memory training with children who have survived a brain injury and evaluating executive function strategy training in adolescents who have survived a brain injury.

Huw Williams also works on  brain injury and rehabilitation, and contributes to the work on social identity in neurological patients.  His main research interests include the epidemiology of brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and its consequences, emotional dysregulation following brain injury in children, and associated parenting problems, neurocognitive profiling in sports concussion and encephalitis, integration of cognitive therapy with neurorehabilitation, and neural responses to pain.

Language Processing

Emeritus Professor Don Mitchell's main focus is on comprehension in reading, especially models of the extraction of syntactic information,  and ways in which such processes vary from language to language; much of the latter work has been done in collaboration with colleagues in Holland and Spain.  Aureliu Lavric uses electrophysiological and priming techniques to explore the early and automatic decomposition of morphologically complex words into their constituents, in collaboration with Kathy Rastle (Royal Holloway). Stephen Monsell has worked on lexical access in comprehension and production and the relation between them, phonological  encoding and articulatory planning. Chris Code, Honorary Fellow in the School, and editor of the journal Aphasiology, is interested in a several aspects of the neuropsychology of language, calculation and facial expression production.

Developmental Psychology

Honorary University Fellow Alan Slater collaborates with Gavin Bremner (Lancaster) on the development of perceptual and cognitive abilities in infancy. His interests include the infant's ability to associate faces with voices, to represent the properties of visible and invisible objects, to categorise speech sounds, and the relationship between infant phonological abilities and those in later childhood.