Publication: The contribution of cognitive biases and genes to psychological wellbeing

Elaine and Chris Beevers recently published a paper in Molecular Psychiatry that discusses how some genes can make people more sensitive to the effects of their environment – for better and for worse – leading to both mental ill health and enhanced mental resilience. They suggest that the same genes that make us prone to depression could also make us prone to positivity. Find out more…


The paper, Differential sensitivity to the environment: contribution of cognitive biases and genes to psychological wellbeing, was published in Molecular Psychiatry on 19 July (doi: 10.1038/mp.2016.114).

BAP 2016 Summer Meeting

Desiree Spronk attended the Summer Meeting of the British Association for Psychopharmacology which was held from 17th- 20th of July, 2016 in Brighton. The main purpose of the visit was to learn about the latest psycho-pharmacological and neurocognitive research in Great Britain, specifically in relation to addictive and binge eating behaviours. It was a very good meeting with lots of high-quality and interesting science!

Find out more…

Dr Desiree Spronk

On the 9th of March 2016, Desiree Spronk successfully defended her thesis titled: ‘Individual differences in the acute effects of cannabis and cocaine on cognitive control’. In her PhD, Desiree investigated how acute administration of cannabis and cocaine affect a number of cognitive control functions in regular users. The defense was held in the Aula of the Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The ceremony was attended by family, friends and colleagues. The OCEAN lab would like to congratulate Desiree!



Psychology Lunchtime Talks

Charlotte Booth recently visited a school to give 3 fascinating lunchtime talks on the “Development of the Teenage Brain.” The talks were very engaging and informative, and attended by students in Years 11, 12 and 13 who were interested in Psychology. It was a great opportunity for the students to extend their understanding of the brain and in particular their own developing brain, as well as learn about career pathways within Psychology.

This is a review by a Year 11 student who studies Psychology and Biology:

“As we had not learnt much about the brain previously, in either Biology or Psychology, many of us were enthusiastic about attending a talk on The Teenage Brain by Charlotte Booth, a researcher from Oxford University!

During the talk, she explained how our prefrontal cortex develops last, which could explain the teenage stereotype of ‘reckless behaviour’, and about how our brains have recently been discovered to continue to develop well into early adulthood (one could argue that some people’s brains never mature!). We learnt about how our social senses develop as we become more aware of other people, and showed us how studies had been done to show differences in the way an 11 year-old would think socially, and how 15 year-olds would interpret social contexts. All in all, the talk was informative and we understood her well.”



Christmas celebrations with the OCEAN Lab

The OCEAN Lab celebrated the festive season by getting together for a traditional Christmas dinner. The place was beautifully decorated and we all had a wonderful time celebrating the end of an amazing year together. In 2015, we welcomed some new members to the OCEAN Lab team – Charlotte Booth, Annabel Songco, and Keith Dear joined as DPhil students. We also welcomed back Dr Maud Grol who was appointed as a Post-Doctoral Researcher. We look forward to an exciting year ahead!


Encouraging girls into STEM subjects

Recent surveys have revealed that there has been a decline in the past year of girls choosing to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) subjects at University. This is despite the fact that job vacancies in these subjects are constantly on the rise. Very few women are applying for these roles, which is no doubt due to the fact that women are not likely to study these subjects at University. It seems that we should be encouraging girls from a young age to engage with these exciting and innovative subjects.

At the OCEAN Lab we will be working with STEM-NET to promote our field of science to adolescents in schools around the country by joining their STEM Ambassador programme (see info )

Oxford Science Week

Oxford Science Week is a new initiative being run by our developmental researchers during half term – 16th – 20th February. It has been designed to engage young adolescents – in years 7 & 8 – to learn more about science in a fun and interactive way.

Parents can book their children into a morning or afternoon session during half term week and bring them along to the department of experimental psychology. Activities will be organised in groups of about ten other children, who will be chaperoned by two researchers (DBS approved to work with children). We will be playing brain games designed to help children learn more about their adolescent brain – including pin the neuron on the brain and the brain piñata.

Find out more…

Lauren Heathcote, BBC News

Attention Bias Modification for children with chronic pain

DPhil student Lauren Heathcote appeared on the BBC South Today news, talking about her new research on children with chronic pain. Lauren is conducting a large, randomised controlled trial of a novel computerised intervention, Attention Bias Modification, for children with chronic pain. The trial is funded by the UK-based charity Action Medical Research, and is taking place at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital. Lauren also appeared on BBC Radio Oxford to discuss her research:

Action Medical Research



Aspects of Personality

Elaine will be talking about Rainy Brain Sunny Brain’ or why some people are optimists and why some are pessimists to the National Women’s Register conference on “Aspects of Personality” in Salisbury on Saturday 25th October.

Find out more…

Are there Cognitive Markers of Optimism and Wellbeing?

Elaine will be presenting a talk to the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics (LSE) on Thursday 23 October at 1:00 pm. She will be asking “Are there Cognitive Markers of Optimism and Wellbeing?”