Research with Impact
The School of Psychology at Bangor has a long and successful record of promoting research with impact on the world beyond the University. Particularly strong lines of research have had significant positive effects on individual health behaviour, on educational and business practice, and on clinical and social care. In 2008 the School enhanced its Third Mission endeavour with the development of a Knowledge Exchange Strategy and the creation of senior management posts for research active academics.
The key aims of our strategy are to:
- Encourage the commercialisation of our research and related activities (e.g. training, consultancy, development or branding/copyrighting of ‘products’).
- Form innovative partnerships with industry and business including the voluntary/charitable sector.
- Provide evidence-based reports to inform government policies, particularly re health and educational policies.
- Engage the public with our research through effective dissemination.
- Reach a wider audience through public activities, creative use of the media and our Knowledge Transfer Days (inaugural event October 2008).
This investment in an ethos of more applied research sitting together synergistically with more basic experimental, behavioural and cognitive research can be seen to have succeeded in some of the examples below.
Early behavioural research conducted by Prof Fergus Lowe and Prof Pauline Horne in the 1980’s led to the development of the Food Dudes Programme in the 1990s, a programme of work that uses peer-modelling techniques and a system of rewards and reinforcement to significantly increase children’s intake of fruit and vegetables.
Over the past 20 or so years the Bangor Food and Activity Research Unit (BFARU) has succeeded in increasing children’s regular consumption of fruit and vegetables and reducing unhealthy snacking behaviour, in many counties across the UK, Ireland, Italy and even in the USA. Controlled trials conducted in England, Wales and Ireland have shown that the programme brings about large and long lasting increases in children’s consumption of fruit and vegetable (average increases ranging from 100–200%), with the consumption of the poorest eaters improved most of all (average increases ranging from 400–1,000%). See Horne et al 2009.
As well as benefiting individual children, parents and teachers the Food Dudes programme, which is currently being rolled out nationally in Ireland, has enhanced the profits of many national producers and companies (e.g. food production, learning and reward materials). Prestigious rewards received for their work, recently Professors Lowe and Horne were awarded a Scientific Translation Award (Technology Transfer) from the Society for the Advancement of Behavioural Analysis. To date, Food Dudes has been delivered to over a third of a million children and shows no sign of stopping as more and more Commissioners take up the programme in their educational authority. Sadly Prof. Lowe passed away in December 2014 but his work will continue to benefit many generations to come. Watch this space for more news!
Continuing the theme of applying behavioural principles to interventions aimed at enhancing health and behavioural outcomes of children and parents
The School supports the work of award-winning work of Prof Judy Hutchings, OBE and the Centre for Evidence-Based Early Intervention, which since 1999 has adopted Caroline Webster-Stratton’s Incredible Years parenting programme to deliver evidence-based interventions for children with conduct disorders and their families in Wales. In addition, the Centre maintains an active programme of training events for parents, teachers, classroom assistants etc.
For the last 12 years, the success of the CEBEI parent, child and teacher programmes in obtaining scientific funding has led to the establishment of a research programme in the School of Psychology that has strong links with local statutory, voluntary and private organisations. Re-named as the Centre for Evidence-based Early Interventions (CEBEI) in 2011 and with the new appointment of Dr Helen Henningham, the Centre will continue to deliver effective programmes for the benefit of child and parent wellbeing. In recognition of Professor Hutchings longstanding commitment to the development of effective services and the extent to which her work has had local, national and international impact and contributed to policy discussions in the Welsh and Westminster Governments, Professor Hutchings was awarded an OBE, for services to children and families, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, June 2011.
Part of a persons wellbeing can be said to come from the sense that they have achieved to the best of their potential. To that end, Bangor is proud to host the Miles Dyslexia Centre, the first unit of its kind to be established combining research into dyslexia with clinical work, based on groundwork by the acclaimed Professor Tim Miles OBE.
Based on Tim Miles’ philosophy that that dyslexia can be treated and it is not associated with / caused by low IQ, The Bangor Dyslexia Test 3rd edition (1998) trialed using the population (N=12,000) of children in the 1970 Child Health and Education Study, has become the gold standard assessment tool and is currently undergoing further development work.The Miles Dyslexia Centre today is active in all fields of dyslexia work: teaching primary and secondary school children; screening and assessment for dyslexia; supporting students with dyslexia within the University; training of teachers for work with dyslexic children; providing information on dyslexia to the general public; and research. Materials developed by those based at the MDC, are used extensively across the nation Bangor Dyslexia Teaching System (E.Miles (3rd edition 1999), Tackling Dyslexia (Cooke, 2nd edition 2003) and Dyslexia at College (DuPre, Gilroy and Miles 2007). In addition to working beyond Bangor, hundreds of students per year have benefitted from the local support of the MDC as they go through their degree programmes at Bangor, and several hundreds of teachers and classroom assistants and those working within the Local Education Authorities have undertaken training courses offered by the MDC on recognition and support of specific learning difficulties.
Over recent years, Bangor University has been working with schools in Gwynedd to help improve children’s reading skills through an innovative computer-based reading programme called ‘Headsprout’.The programmes are based on research findings and include those elements identified as important for successfully learning to read. They provide individualised teaching that can be delivered with minimal training.
Collaborating with local schools, the School of Psychology has been bringing this innovative technology to children across north Wales. Small projects investigating the programme have been running for a number of years, however PhD funding through the School of Psychology has allowed this research to be expanded.
Dr. Carl Hughes, Dr Michael Beverley and PhD student Emily Tyler are currently investigating how Headsprout reading programmes can be used both with children in mainstream schools and children with learning disabilities in special needs schools. Dr Carl Hughes explains: “With the recent concern about literacy levels in Wales in particular, this research could provide a viable cost-effective solution to ensure all children achieve success in reading during primary education. I really believe that if every child in North Wales completed Headsprout we would effectively eliminate serious reading failure. The implications of reading failure on the educational achievement for our children are clear, and we as a society should consider it unacceptable if a child leaves primary education without functional reading skills. To put this in context, the cost of one lesson of expert reading instruction with Headsprout is about the price of your daily milk.”
Students from the School of Psychology have been helping to deliver the programme in local schools in Bangor, going into the schools each day to work with the children enrolled in the programme. Initial results suggest that many can benefit from Headsprout reading programmes, and the effects on children’s reading skills will be investigated further with more children over the next few years. “
The Headsprouts initiative is proving to be a big success at Ysgol Cae Top. The children enjoy the sessions, they feel a sense of achievement, and develop greater confidence and self belief. Children’s reading skills at Cae Top have definitely improved thanks to Headsprouts.” Rhys Howard Hughes – Headteacher at Ysgol Cae Top. Mrs. Donna Rees-Roberts, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafod Lon, Y Ffôr, said of the ongoing projects, ‘Headsprout is exciting and innovative and this research with the University has changed the way we teach children to read. The children love the characters and we love the progress’.
Bangor’s Centre for Mindfulness-based Research & Practice was the first UK professional training centre for mindfulness. The CMRP is committed to the promotion of wellbeing through the application of mindfulness-based approaches. This is achieved by training professionals in the application of mindfulness based approaches and researching applications of mindfulness. The Centre also offer classes in mindfulness based stress reductions (MBSR) and mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to specific populations and the general public both locally and further afield.
In order to find a therapy that specifically combated depression relapse using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) principles Bangor’s Professor Williams, in collaboration with Zindel Segal (Toronto) and John Teasdale (Oxford) combined CBT with Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for a more specific affective treatment based on clinical psychology principles. Whilst designed specifically to help people who suffer repeated bouts of depression Teadale et al, 2000; Wiliams et al 20005, Crane 2009 to date the team, now led by Rebecca Crane, has developed and delivered 8-week Mindfulness—based cognitive therapy courses (MBCT) to over 1500 individuals, mainly adults, from stressed members of the general public, parents and foster-parents, to those with cancer or clinical depression. Newer work is turning attention to the teaching of mindfulness practices in children. With about 15,000 hours (2000 person days) of MBCT delivered by the team each year to those in need, and with about 1300 professionals trained in delivering mindfulness each year, the evidence of the effectiveness of this therapeutic intervention goes from strength to strength. Recognising this, impact has reached clinical/healthcare guidelines as in 2004 MBCT was recommended by the NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) as a treatment of choice for preventing depressive relapse in those individuals who have experienced three or more episodes. NICE Clinical Guideline no 90
What about 3D TV and potential impacts on health here?
Dr Simon Watt, Senior Lecturer and Vision Scientist in the School, recently presented findings on the effects of viewing 3-D movies, television, and other displays at IBC, a broadcast industry meeting in Amsterdam attended by 50,000 delegates and 1300 companies. He discussed perhaps controversial but timely evidence about the potential ‘perceptual’ problems that can arise from viewing 3-D media.
‘Because the real world is three-dimensional, viewing 3-D media is often thought to be more natural than viewing conventional cinema etc. In fact, however, 3-D displays present a stimulus to our visual systems that differs from natural viewing in significant ways, including timing differences in the presentation of left and right eyes’ images, and the requirement to focus the eyes at the screen surface, while converging them at different distances. These differences have been shown to have a number of unpleasant side effects, including poor or distorted depth perception, artefacts like juddering motion, and fatigue and eyestrain. Dr Watt’s work will continue to attract lots of interest as he conducts further cutting edge research. We suggest you watch this space to find out if 3-D television is actually harmful…’
Given the ageing population in the UK and elsewhere, and the associated increase in the incidence of dementia, it is vitally important to develop effective psychological interventions that can help to to maintain optimal well-being and functioning for those who are affected. To this end, Bangor Psychology has achieved international recognition for its research on dementia rehabilitation and care.
Professors Bob Woods and Linda Clare have drawn from reviews of specific techniques and recent developments in brain injury rehabilitation Clare & Woods, 2003/2007 to outline and test an holistic clinical intervention approach focussed on identifying personal rehabilitation goals Clare et al, 2009, Clare et al in press. The clinical efficacy of this approach was assessed in the first randomised controlled trial of cognitive rehabilitation for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society and provides evidence that cognitive rehabilitation can improve the performance of everyday activities for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s. In addition cognitive stimulation techniques have been shown to have efficacy in benefitting quality of life amongs those with mild to moderate dementia (Woods et al, 2006, 2012). In terms of care, Professor Woods set up the Wales Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) which became a member of the Global Aging Research Network in 2011, to effectively engage with practitioners and policy makers across the health and social service sectors in Wales. Evidence of the success of their work and wider angagement is seen in the citations in published guidelines (NICE-SCIE. Dementia: Supporting people with dementia and their carers in health and social care: Clinical Guideline 42.. London: NICE-SCIE, 2006) and the World Alzheimer’s Report [: http://www.alz.co.uk/research/WorldAlzheimerReport2011.pdf ]
Age can bring with it an increasing array of illness, and the School has many research teams exploring the impact of illness (physical and mental) upon a persons’ life. Central to living with illness is often self-management through the taking of medication and Dr Val Morrison, Reader in Health Psychology has for the past 4 years been working in collaboration with the Centre for Health Economics and Evaluations on an FP7 funded programme to investigate factors associated with non-adherence to hypertensive medication, the costs of such non-adherence and interventions to improve medication adherence (the protocol is available: Clyne et al, 2011). A new taxonomy of adherence behaviour has already been published (Vrijens B, et al, in press, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology . A new taxonomy for describing and defining adherence to medications adherence), and although this team have only recently presented their findings at European Parliament in Brussels they are likely to make a significant impact upon understanding predictors of this costly (for both the individual and society) behaviour and thus better inform the development of more effective psycho-educational intervention.