The Cognition and Emotion Research Centre comprises of 10 staff members and around 26 research students at honours, masters and PhD level across the Melbourne campus and Strathfield (NSW) campus.
The Centre has two related research themes, 1) cognitive theme (e.g., prospective memory) and 2) an emotion theme (e.g., social cognition). We use our multi-disciplinary research expertise in the fields of psychology, neuroscience and brain imaging to various groups including older adults, chronic heart failure patients, stroke patients, substance users and children with autism.
Cognition and Prospective Memory
Prospective Memory (PM) is the ability to remember to perform actions in the future. More recently the group has also started investigating the related area of future thinking which is the ability to imagine oneself in a situation in the future (sometimes referred to as mental time travel). Research by the Centre has shown prospective memory and future thinking are both very sensitive to normal and abnormal ageing, as well as a range of neurological or psychiatric problems, and that abilities in prospective memory and future thinking are critical for developing and maintaining independent living. This research is led by Director, Professor Peter Rendell. He has developed Virtual Week, a computer-based program which assesses prospective memory. This is recognised as the most ecologically valid and reliable measure of prospective memory. This program has been translated into over 10 languages, and is used in major cognitive neuropsychology research labs, such as labs in Toronto University, Washington University, Colombia University, University College London, and University of Geneva..
The Centre has expertise in emotion recognition, emotion regulation and social cognition. Facial affect recognition is one area of focus, with research revealing selective difficulties in recognising specific emotions. For example, we look at a range of groups (healthy adults to clinical groups, i.e. those with schizophrenia) and how they respond to emotions shown by others in social situations. The group also investigates the processes that we use to detect deception and trustworthiness in others, and how these processes influence financial decision making in a social context. This research is helping us to understand why some older adults are particularly vulnerable to financial scams.
Our research also utilises state-of-art psychophysiological testing approaches such as assessment of hormone levels, physiological responses (e.g. skin conductance, heart rate and electromyography) and brain activity and how this impacts specific cognitive functions and emotion processing (e.g. Electroencephalogram (EEG) and Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).