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Health Interventions & Wellbeing Research

Lead: Professor David Kennedy   Meet our staff

Our research is concentrated in two key areas: the first examines the effect of nutrition on the brain and cardiovascular function while a second area of research is aimed at elucidating the psychobiology of stress and developing stress-reduction interventions, complemented by research into the psychological sequelae of smoking and recreational drug use. Specific work within the group includes:

Nutrition and brain/cardiovascular function

Members of the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre work in the field of nutritional neuroscience, conducting randomised controlled trials investigating the effects of nutritional interventions on brain function, work which is complemented by research examining the effects of dietary components on in vivo measurements of blood vessel function (e.g. as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease). Controlled trials assessing the effects of nutritional interventions on:

  • Cognitive function and mood in children and adults
  • Cerebral blood flow and its relationship to performance in young and old adults
  • Peripheral blood flow and other cardiovascular parameters

The psychobiology of stress & substance abuse

  • The development of novel, ecologically valid paradigms for assessing stress in the laboratory and ambulatory settings
  • Explorations of the psychological, behavioural and biological pathways that link stress to deleterious consequences in physical and psychological well-being
  • Assessments in healthy, clinical (e.g., diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue), occupational (e.g., emergency services, medical staff, elite athletes) and chronically stressed (e.g., familial caregivers) populations
  • Bespoke development of psychological stress-reduction interventions for populations that are often not able to participate (i.e, through restrictions of time or mobility)
  • Understanding the causes and consequences of legal (e.g., smoking and alcohol) and illicit (e.g., cannabis, MDMA, 'legal' highs') recreational drugs use
  • Assessing the impact on psychological (e.g. cognition, mood, stress), behavioural (e.g., day-to-day function, other health compromising behaviours) and physical (endocrine and immune function, physical health, sleep) processes.

Please view individual research staff profiles to see specific research and publications from the group. We welcome interest from potential doctoral and post-doctoral researchers interested in working with us.

Facilities

  • The Brain Performance and Nutrition Research Centre is housed in custom designed computer enabled and networked cognitive testing laboratories, which accommodate Near Infrared Spectroscopy, Trans-cranial Doppler and EEG. Cognitive function and mood are measured with the centre's own Computerised Mental Performance Assessment System (COMPASS), a flexible software framework specifically designed to deliver customised assessments of cognitive performance and mood.
  • Pulse wave velocity and pulse wave analysis are measured using a SphygmoCor system. Stiffness index and reflection index are measured by digital volume pulse. 24 hour blood pressure studies are performed using Spacelabs ambulatory blood pressure monitors. Dr Trevor George has additional expertise in flow mediated dilation and laser doppler imaging with iontophoresis.
  • The Stress Testing laboratory benefits from the recent acquisition of continuous heart rate and blood pressure monitoring equipment (PortaPres) and the  in-house development of techniques for eliciting real-life acute stress (e.g., the Multitasking Framework) and ambulatory (e.g., diurnal cortisol and momentary mood) assessments of psychobiological function.
  • The group also benefits from access to clinical research facilities, dedicated phlebotomy rooms and a wet lab equipped to quantify a wide range of analytes along with access to Applied Chemistry facilities (e.g. for metabolomics work).
  • Food and nutrition research is further supported by a food pilot plant, kitchens and an organoleptic testing room.

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Northumbria Research Link

Northumbria Research Link (NRL) is an open access repository of Northumbria University's research output.

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Research Staff Profiles

Our students learn from the best – inspirational academic staff with a genuine passion for their subject, whose teaching is shaped by world-leading and internationally excellent research.

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