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A Carnival of Connectedness: Lincoln Psychology Undergraduate Visits the Edinburgh Science Festival


University of Lincoln psychology undergraduate, Maddi Pownall explores the concept of ‘connectedness’ and life and death in an online world at the  Edinburgh Science Festival. During her three day taster, Maddi attended talks and exhibitions and took part in sessions which invited her to explore taste and smell.

You can read Maddi’s full article here in the Psychologist

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Happy Easter!


We hope that everyone has a lovely and relaxing Easter break. The college office will be closed from Friday 14th – Tuesday 18th April but we will respond to any enquires when we return on Wednesday.

Eye movement research could hold the key to early Parkinson’s diagnosis

Brain scan re-size

The way people with Parkinson’s use their eyes to complete simple tasks in both the real world and working at computers is being investigated by neuroscientists – and the findings could help early diagnosis and improve their quality of life.

Neuroscientists at the University of Lincoln have been investigating markers specific to Parkinson’s, including jerky movements of the eyes – termed “multi-stepping”.

Using specialist software to monitor tiny but significant eye movements when sat at a computer, they found that people with Parkinson’s are more easily distracted, and do not organise their eye movements as efficiently as people without the condition during problem solving and memory tasks.

Researchers are now also using portable eye trackers to examine natural eye movements in real world tasks to improve understanding of how the condition affects day-to-day life.

The ongoing research is being highlighted as part of Parkinson’s Awareness Week (10th – 16th April 2017), which aims to shine a light on the progressive neurological condition. One person in every 500 has Parkinson’s – or around 127,000 people in the UK.

Parkinson’s has no known cause and currently there is no cure. Symptoms are controlled using a combination of drugs, therapies and occasionally surgery. What is known is that people with Parkinson’s do not produce enough of the chemical dopamine because nerve cells in their brain have died; without dopamine, movements become slower, and the loss of nerve cells in the brain causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s to appear.

Lead researcher, Professor Tim Hodgson, who has just been appointed Branch President for the Lincoln and District Branch of Parkinson’s UK for 2017-18, said the findings have the potential to help in the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s and the assessment of cognitive impairments. Such diagnosis tools could also help those with the condition understand the subtle ways symptoms might affect them.

Professor Hodgson, Head of the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln has led the research over the past four years with help from the Lincoln and District branch of the charity Parkinson’s UK.

“Many everyday tasks require us to make links between what we see and where we look with our eyes, so that we are able to switch between different tasks, such as making a cup of tea, reading the newspaper and then answering the telephone,” said Professor Hodgson.
“We also have to use these visual skills to learn new things, such as preparing a new recipe or learning a new game. Because of the changes to the way the brain works in someone with Parkinson’s, they may have problems learning new visuo-spatial tasks over and above the obvious difficulties – for example shaking – the condition causes with movement.

“This has been a long standing research interest off and on since my days as a post-doctoral research fellow at Charing Cross Hospital in London.”

Participants with and without Parkinson’s were asked to perform a computerised eye movement task where they were given a series of rules such as looking to the left when a black dot appeared on the screen, or centralising their gaze when presented with a red stimulus. The eye tracker equipment then monitored how closely they were able to follow the rules, and how much their eyes moved.

The study showed that people with Parkinson’s were slower to learn a new instructions compared with participants without the disease, suggesting that the brain circuits and chemicals affected in people with Parkinson’s play a role in this ability. The study is now also using portable devises to monitor how the eyes work in the real world.

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Lincoln Sport & Exercise Science Student Becomes Powerlifting Medallist!


Congratulations to Alex Jackson who took third place in a very competitive 72-kg class at the recent British University Powerlifting Championships. Alex achieved personal bests in all three lifts (Squat, Bench and Deadlift) including a British junior record of 178 kg in the Deadlift!

Alex, who is in her first year of the BSc (Hons) Strength & Conditioning in Sport programme, is also a Sports Scholar at the University and is coached by Senior Lecturer Tom Gee:
“My experience at the British University Championships was a positive one: I was able to compete against athletes of varying abilities and ages and did so successfully with the help of Tom Gee. To be able to compete through the University with a high-level coach at my side enabled me to produce a competitive performance that placed me third overall.”

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Lincoln Professor talking Sustainable Development in South Africa


Professor Duncan French, Head of Lincoln Law School and Professor of International Law, has recently attended the third meeting of the Rule of Law and Sustainable Development seminar organised by the Regional African Law and Human Security Programme (RALHUS).

Professor French presented a paper on contemporary case-law on sustainable development, including both international jurisprudence and domestic decisions. He reflected on the significant developments in the case-law, in the field of domestic courts holding States to account on the issue of climate change and, internationally, in developments on the legal principle of due diligence.

Nevertheless, Professor French cautioned against a wholesale endorsement of recent case-law, noting the recent decision of the International Court in the joined cases of Costa Rica v Nicaragua / Nicaragua v Costa Rica (2015) and creeping legal formalism. Thus he left the workshop with a question; are we seeing a maturity in the environmental jurisprudence or is there risk of sterility in the guise of meeting specified procedural steps?

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Improving Healthcare Commissioning for Probation: Mapping the Landscape

Health services


Healthcare services available to people on probation and how they access them will be examined as part of a new research project. The project, funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Research for Patient Benefit Programme, aims to tackle relevant issues identified by the researchers in consultation with probation workers and service users.

Researchers say better healthcare could help increase the number of people successfully completing community sentences and could potentially reduce the rate of recidivism, while also saving the NHS substantial sums of money by reducing the unnecessary use of urgent and emergency services.

The study, led by the University of Lincoln’s Dr Coral Sirdifield and Professor Niro Siriwardena, with colleagues from Royal Holloway, University of London, will address three key areas: the best way of providing healthcare to achieve good health outcomes for probationers; how healthcare is currently delivered to probationers, for example by probation services, through local partnerships, or through clinical commissioning groups; and what data is already available that could be used to measure and improve probationers’ health and the quality of their healthcare.

The team of researchers will carry out a literature review of the existing studies, conduct national surveys, examine written policy and procedure documents, and conduct telephone interviews with senior members of probation and health services.

Lead investigator, Dr Coral Sirdifield from the University of Lincoln’s School of Health and Social Care, said: “There are more than 200,000 offenders on probation in the UK, and they are often deprived, vulnerable and have complex health needs such as mental health, or drug and alcohol problems, compared with the general population.

“Many probationers are not registered with a GP, or only access healthcare during crises. To reduce health inequalities, we first need to understand how healthcare is provided to probationers, and how its quality can be measured and improved.

“This is important because providing better, evidence-based healthcare will improve probationers’ health, increase their chances of completing probation, and could potentially reduce their risk of reoffending. There are potential cost savings to the NHS by reducing the unnecessary use of urgent and emergency services.”

The grant bid was put together following consultation with probation workers and service users to ensure the research would tackle relevant issues. Those probation workers and the service users will be on the project steering group and will help develop information resources, carry out interviews, and share the findings of the study. The funding is just under £150,000.

The findings will be shared with all participants, relevant organisations and policy makers as a toolkit, and submitted to relevant journals for publication.

For more information on the project, visit the Community and Health Research Unit website

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University of Lincoln Hosts Society of Academic Primary Care Regional Conference



The Community and Health Research Unit and University of Lincoln hosted this year’s Trent Regional SAPC Spring sapc_lincoln1Conference at the Hilton Doubletree Hotel on Brayford Wharf in Lincoln. The conference included delegates from the Universities of Lincoln, Nottingham, Leicester and Sheffield and all over our region presenting and learning about the latest in primary care research and educational through orals, posters and workshops.

The conference keynote speakers were Chris Burton, Professor of Primary Care and Head of the Academic Unit of Primary Medical Care at the University of Sheffield, Aneez Esmail, Professor of General Practice at the University of Manchester and Navjoyt Ladher, clinical editor at The BMJ. The conference was chaired by Professor Niro Siriwardena, Professor of Primary and Prehospital Healthcare and opened by Professor Sara Owen, Pro Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Social Science at the University of Lincoln. Professor Burton, new in post at Sheffield, gave the first keynote in place of Professor Nigel Mathers who was recovering from illness. Everyone wished Professor Mathers well for his convalescence and return to health.

Professor Owen’s opening talk focussed on the rapid development and expansion in science and health research and teaching at Lincoln. Chris Burton’s opening keynote focussed on ‘Complexity’, commonly used, misused and sapc_lincoln2misunderstood in healthcare and research. He described the mathematics of complexity as he had applied it in his research to issues such as frequent health service use and how these were described by ‘heavy-tailed’ or log-log distributions.

There followed a series of excellent morning oral presentations, workshops and posters. Before lunch, Professor Esmail gave another outstanding keynote, ‘The problem with patient safety – challenging orthodoxies’ He certainly did challenge the conventional approach to patient safety and described how conventional attempts to reduce harm, in particularly using a target-driven approach, could lead to poorer outcomes and how it was necessary, even important, to accept some risk for better outcomes.

After lunch and viewing of the excellent posters on display, we were treated to further oral presentations and another educational workshop. The meeting ended with our final keynote from Dr Navjoyt Ladher, clinical editor at the British sapc_lincoln3Medical Journal, who spoke eloquently about ‘Goldilocks medicine’ and the art of getting medicine right, particularly focussing on the harms of medicalisation and overtreatment. She went onto to talk about the editorial process at the BMJ, while encouraging primary care researchers to submit their studies to the journal.

The day ended with prizes awarded to the best poster, ‘Predictors of postpartum return to smoking: a systematic review’ by Sophie Orton, Tim Coleman, Tom Coleman-Haynes and Michael Ussher of Nottingham University, and the best oral presentation, which went to Michael Toze from CaHRU at the University of Lincoln for his doctoral research presentation, ‘Coming out in general practice: the experience of older LGBT patients’. Flowers, wine and a big vote of thanks went to Sue Bowler for her work organising the conference and making the day such a success, supported by the CaHRU team and members of staff from the other institutions involved.

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Suffrage Science Award for Lincoln Psychology Professor



A psychology professor whose research on childhood development has helped to teach children safe behaviour with dogs has been recognised for her work with a Suffrage Women in Science Award.

Professor Kerstin Meints from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology specialises in the study of infant and child development and human-animal interaction. Her interdisciplinary work has seen the creation of language assessment tools as well as educational tools. The latter are designed to help children and parents behave safely with dogs and to recognise when a dog might be distressed, which can in turn lead to a reduction in dog bite incidents.

She has now been presented with the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (MRC LMS) Suffrage Women in Science Award which celebrates women in science for their scientific achievement, their ability to inspire others, and for encouraging women to enter scientific subjects and to stay in those fields.

The award itself is represented through a piece of specially-designed jewellery, a brooch which symbolises the Suffrage movement. The brooch comes in a box with ribbons depicting the three colours of the suffrage movement: green, white and purple. In the UK, those colours were worn by the Women’s Social and Political Union, led by Emmeline Pankhurst.

Professor Meints, who is the director of the Lincoln Infant and Child Development Lab, will keep the jewellery for the next two years before choosing her own nominee to pass it on to. The aim is to create a network of connected female scientists around the world who help to inspire others to enter science, and to stay.

Professor Meints said: “I feel very honoured to receive this award. I will do my very best to inspire, encourage and mentor women in science and to help them to speak up, be visible and reach their goals.

“For the next two years, and beyond, I will dedicate time to supporting colleagues and students through mentoring. I believe that encouragement and a belief that they can achieve what they aim for is vital to succeed.

“Handing on the Suffrage Science jewellery is a vote of confidence by one female scientist for another, and I look forward to nominating the next awardee in two years’ time.”

Professor Meints was one of twelve scientists to receive an award. They were presented on International Women’s Day 2017, to recognise their scientific achievements and ability to inspire others.

She was nominated by previous winner Professor Susan Condor, a social psychologist at Loughborough University whose work addresses identity and prejudice in England. Professor Condor said: “Professor Kerstin Meints’ BabyLab at Lincoln is pioneering innovative work which brings together research on infant and toddler communicative development with knowledge of animal behaviour. Her research on how young children misinterpret dogs’ facial expressions has led to the development of successful educational tools for dog bite prevention.”

The ceremony was hosted by science communicator Dr Kat Arney and took place at the Royal Society in London. It included a discussion which explored boundaries in science, be those by gender, by nationality or by scientific discipline, with three panellists.

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Fight or flight? How mental toughness can lead to better decision making under pressure



Witnesses described a “nuclear mushroom cloud”. Snow and dust leapt skyward, thrown up by the large chunks of ice and rock that snapped off Mount Pumori, which rises from a valley opposite Mount Everest.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April 2015, killing more than 8,000 people, triggered numerous avalanches in the Himalayas. At the time, Everest Base Camp was a temporary home to the hundreds of climbers, guides, Sherpa and other support crew for the 359 climbers who’d been granted permits to climb the world’s tallest peak that year.

With no chance of outrunning the avalanche as it thundered toward them, climbers sought refuge wherever they could find it: in their tents, behind rocks, and even curled up in a ball on the ground. When the avalanche ended the survivors emerged from what little shelter they could find to a scene of devastation. Tents were buried under ice, and equipment and bodies were strewn across the landscape.

In total, 22 climbers died and more than 60 were injured, making it the deadliest disaster in the history of climbing Mount Everest. Yet, moments after the immediate danger passed, and conscious that climbers were still stranded at camps higher up the mountain, there were those who set about organising a recovery effort.

The varied responses have given researchers deeper insights into the role of mental toughness in making critical decisions in extreme circumstances.
The idea of a mental edge – toughness, grit, determination ­– or that special something that separates elite athletes from the rest has captivated audiences and intrigued sports psychologists. Dr Swann, from UOW’s Early Start Research Institute says mental toughness has become a central topic in sport psychology.

Researchers generally agree that mental toughness involves the ability to maintain focus and make effective decisions under pressure and in the face of adversity.
Dr Swann, with his research partners Dr Lee Crust and Professor Jacqui Allen-Collinson from the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom, looked to professional mountain climbers to explore the concept.
In the sport of mountaineering, mental toughness is not the bar for success, it’s the minimum price required to play the game. Exhaustion, dehydration, extreme low temperatures and lack of oxygen can cause hypothermia, frostbite and acute mountain sicknesses with symptoms such as severe brain swelling (cerebral oedema) and water in the lungs (pulmonary oedema).

You can view the full article in The Stand

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Former Lincoln Law Student Success


I am currently studying an LL.M in Energy and Climate Law at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. I have always had a passion for the environment and a desire to study and live abroad. The course, the University and the city itself are all amazing and I am so happy with my decision to study in Groningen. I have had the chance to meet students from all over the world, be taught by engaging professors and professionals in the energy field and settle into Dutch culture by becoming a fully-fledged cyclist! I cannot thank the University of Lincoln enough for aptly preparing me for post-graduate study and for encouraging and helping me to apply.

When speaking to other students in Groningen, I became aware of the importance of attaining an internship. I did some research into energy and climate related internships and decided to apply to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat. I received an email to state that I had been placed on the internal roster and then a few days later I was offered an internship with Mitigation, Data and Analysis Department. The internship is based in Bonn, Germany and will last for three months over this summer. I am very excited to begin the internship, to gain hands on relevant and practical experience and see how the secretariat operates, especially in the wake of the newly agreed Paris Agreement.

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