Welcome to Psychology

From childhood to old age.

Psychology at Heriot-Watt focuses on providing
excellent learning experience combined with strong
and active research culture

Identifying lifestyle factors which affect the ageing brain

In collaboration with longitudinal studies of ageing, based at the Universities of Edinburgh and Copenhagen, for example, this research stream focuses on the identification of lifestyle and psychosocial factors that predict successful ageing, primarily cognitive ageing. The key questions are: what factors affect the ways in which our cognitive abilities change with age?; and how are these effects manifested in structural changes in the brain? We are mainly interested in factors which are malleable, such as activity participation and exercise, social networks and support, and occupational characteristics and exposures. By being amenable to change, such factors are potential targets for interventions designed to reduce or delay the deleterious effect of ageing on cognitive abilities, and so have applied value in an increasingly aged society. Contact Dr Alan Gow for more information.

Cognition, action, beliefs, and healthy ageing

The UK older population is projected to increase sizeably over the next thirty years.  Finding ways to maintain and enhance the abilities and quality of life for older people is therefore now more pertinent than ever.  We are particularly interested in how cognitive ageing impacts the control and regulation of action in everyday tasks, how relationships between perception and action change with age to impact everyday functional ability, and how participation, health, and functional abilities are influenced by social-cognitive factors such as attitudes and beliefs. Our aim is to apply research on ageing to the development of new interventions, assessment tools, and the design of everyday objects and environments in a way that will help to maintain and enhance everyday functioning across the whole adult lifespan. Contact Dr Lauren Potter for more information.

Non-pharmacological interventions for people with dementia and their caregivers

In the absence of an effective cure for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, interventions that slow down the rate of deterioration can benefit people with dementia, and their caregivers. Non-drug or non-pharmacological interventions (NPIs) are valuable alternatives or complements to medication. Long-term maintenance of NPIs by health care professionals is unsustainable, but training caregivers to act as therapists is a more sustainable alternative and will give more people with dementia access to effective NPIs. In collaboration with colleagues in the NHS I am working on the development and implementation of NPIs to improve post-diagnostic support and training for home-living people with dementia and their main caregiver.