Projects per year
My research is focused on understanding human memory and attention, and how these cognitive processes are affected by adult ageing, emotion (especially anxiety), and lifestyle factors (such as cognitive engagement). I am also interested in wider health-related issues across the adult lifespan, such as vaccine hesitancy. My research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Chief Scientist Office, and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.
I am founding Director of the Strathclyde Ageing Network, comprising ~100 of Strathclyde's multidisciplinary ageing-related researchers and key external partners, and I lead the new Scottish Cognitive Ageing Network. I am also a member of the planning group of the Scottish Older People's Assembly. My other external partners include Alzheimer Scotland, Generations Working Together, and U3A.
Following my BA(hons) in Psychology in 2001, I completed my MSc in Psychological Research Methods and a research assistant post, both at University of Stirling. I then gained my PhD in cognitive ageing at Glasgow Caledonian University in 2007. I gained significant experience as a postdoctoral fellow, first at Glasgow Caledonian University and then at The University of Edinburgh, where I worked on European Research Council and Leverhulme Trust-funded research projects. I then became a Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University in 2011, where I founded my Memory & Ageing Lab. Having originally studied at Strathclyde for my undergraduate degree, I was delighted to return for a Chancellor's Fellowship in 2014.
I have served on ethics committees at multiple institutions for approximately 10 years in total. I am a Fellow of the Psychonomic Society and the Higher Education Academy, and a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society.
My core interest is in cognitive abilities across the adult lifespan, especially short-term ("working") memory and attention mechanisms, and processing and retaining visual information. A current area of focus is upon the ability to associate ("bind") visual information in working memory, and the ways in which this may be affected by ageing. I am also interested in how young and older adults can maintain and even improve their cognitive functioning, for example by using cognitive strategies or by considering health or lifestyle factors such as sleep or level of cognitive engagement. Some of my research on binding and cognitive strategies has been funded by research grants awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Another line of research concerns the impacts of emotion, particularly anxiety, on attention and working memory.
I am currently supervising the following PhD researchers:
- Seamas Farrell (lead supervisor; from Oct. 2023). Topic: 'sleep and brain health: the roles of sleep duration and daytime alertness in cognitive functioning across the adult lifespan' (ESRC- and Alzheimer Scotland-funded). With L. Fleming.
- Rebecca Hart (lead supervisor; from Oct. 2023). Topic: 'a mixed-methods investigation of young and older adults’ strategies during age-sensitive visual working memory: co-developing a novel strategy training intervention' (ESRC-funded). With M. Parra Rodriguez.
- Laura Manderson (lead supervisor; from Oct. 2020). Topic: 'ageing and communication: Understanding the roles of cognition, speech production, and social participation' (ESRC-funded). With A. Kuschmann and A. Lowit.
- Abigail Paterson (co-supervisor; from Oct. 2018). Topic: ‘implementation intentions, cognitive abilities and self-harm’ (ESRC-funded). With M. Elliott and S. Rasmussen.
Key lab Alumni:
- Dr Anna Krzeczkowska (lead PhD supervisor; 2017-2022). Topic: ‘intergenerational engagement interventions for enhanced cognition in older age’ (University-funded). Went on to work with the Scottish Government (data analysis) and now a researcher at University of Edinburgh.
- Dr David Spalding (lead PhD supervisor; 2017-2021). Topic: ‘the impact of anxiety on visual attention and working memory’ (University-funded). Went on to an MRC-funded postdoctoral research position at King's College London.
- Jihad Diab (MSc dissertation supervisor; 2020-21). Went on to work as a research assistant with the Risk Management Authority.
- Dr Rebecca Wagstaff (PhD co-supervisor; 2015-21). Topic: ‘mechanisms of cognitive and language impairment in Parkinson's Disease’ (University funded). Went on to work as a Research Officer with the Risk Management Authority.
- Allyson Gallant (RA co-supervisor; 2020). Went on to study for a PhD in Health at Dalhousie University.
- Milan Zarchev (intern supervisor; 2019). Went on to study for a masters and then PhD at Erasmus University, Rotterdam.
- Catherine Smith (intern supervisor; 2018). Went on to study primary education at University of Glasgow.
- Martin Nemec (intern supervisor; 2018). Went on to study at postgraduate level at King's College London.
- Dr Brad English (intern supervisor; 2013). Went on to become a Clinical Psychologist (Nottingham NHS).
- Dr Catherine Blackburn (intern supervisor; 2012). Went on to become Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University.
- Dr Elaine Niven (postdoc. lead supervisor; 2011-12). Went on to become Senior Lecturer in Psychology at University of Dundee.
My teaching is focused in the areas of cognition and the psychology of ageing. I am the class leader of the honours topic "psychology and ageing", and I teach in this area in the level 3 Development class (social and cognitive ageing). I supervise undergraduate, masters, and PhD level research (see Research section for further information).
I have previously taught on the level 2 Social & Health class, and the level 3 Cognition class. I have also been the School Director of Postgraduate Research (2020-2023), having been Deputy Director for 6 years prior to that.
Expertise & Capabilities
- human memory and attention
- visual and spatial short-term ("working") memory
- cognitive ageing
- lifestyle effects on cognition
- the role of cognition in health, especially regarding ageing
- emotional impacts on cognition, especially anxiety.
Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals
In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):
Doctor of Philosophy, The effects of interference and ageing on visuo-spatial working memory performance., Glasgow Caledonian University
Award Date: 1 Jan 2007
Master of Science, University of Stirling
Award Date: 1 Jan 2002
Bachelor of Arts, University of Strathclyde
Award Date: 1 Jan 2001
Planning Group Member, Scottish Older People's Assembly (SOPA)
10 Jul 2020 → …
- Cognitive Ageing
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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years
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A mixed-methods investigation of young and older adults’ strategies during age-sensitive visual working memory: co-developing a novel strategy training intervention
1/10/23 → 30/09/26
Project: Research - Studentship
Ageing and communication: Understanding the roles of cognition, speech production, and social participation
1/10/20 → 30/09/24
Project: Research - Studentship
A semantic strategy training intervention aimed at enhancing young and older adults' visual working memory capacityNicholls, L. A. B. & Hart, R., 8 Sept 2023. 7 p.
Research output: Contribution to conference › Poster › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile14 Downloads (Pure)
Paterson, A., Elliott, M. A., Nicholls, L. A. B. & Rasmussen, S., 30 Nov 2023, In: British Journal of Health Psychology. 28, 4, p. 1241-1260 20 p.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile5 Downloads (Pure)
Data for: "Improving older adults’ vaccination uptake: Are existing measures of vaccine hesitancy valid and reliable for older people?"
Brown Nicholls, L. (Creator), UK Data Service , 2015
Brown Nicholls, Louise (Recipient), Jan 2011
Prize: Election to learned society
Louise A. B. Nicholls (Speaker)2 Nov 2023
Activity: Public Engagement and Outreach › Public Events
Louise A. B. Nicholls (Examiner)3 Oct 2023
Activity: Examination types › Examination