Dr Butler: UROS funding & public engagement event

Congratulations are in order for fellow FCRG member – Dr Kevin Butler – who, along with his colleague Dr Laëtitia Maréchal (from the EvoDevo Research Group), has recently received research funding and an invitation to a public engagement event in Brussels. Details are below:

In collaboration with Dr Maréchal and his undergraduate students (Tiffany McNally and Olivia Smith), Dr Butler was recently awarded funding from the ‘Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scheme’ (UROS) to investigate impulsive and risk taking behaviour in relation to approaching wild animals. Wildlife tourism is a growing industry and encounters with wild animals can be dangerous for both tourists and the animals involved. Dr Kevin et al. will investigate the role that individual differences play in making poor approach choices. They hope this research will increase public understanding of potential risks and will lead to better, safer wildlife tourism experiences for everyone concerned.

Public Engagement:
Also, Dr Butler and Dr Maréchal have been invited to attend a public engagement event entitled ‘Science is Wonderful’ at the EU Parliament in Brussels (26-27th September, 2017). At this event, they will present their research investigating the psychology of human-animal interactions: (1) Perception of primate emotion from facial expressions (Dr Maréchal) and (2) impulsivity and risk taking in relation to approaching wild animals (both Dr Maréchal and Butler).

Dr Kevin Butler publishes new research

Congratulations to FCRG member – Dr Kevin Butler – who has recently (along with his various collaborators) published a number of studies relevant to clinical psychology and related fields. Below we provide the reference (and link) for each study, along with a brief summary.

The first is:

Klaus K., Butler K., Durrant S. J., Ali M., Inglehearn C. F., Hodgson T. L., Gutierrez H., and Pennington K. (2017). The effect of COMT Val158Met and DRD2 C957T polymorphisms on executive function and the impact of early life stress. Brain and Behavior, 7(5): e00695. DOI: 10.1002/brb3.695


This study investigates the C957T (rs6277) polymorphism in the gene encoding the dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) in healthy adult males. This polymorphism has been proposed to play a role in the development of schizophrenia. More specifically, the C allele has been associated with heightened schizophrenia risk in Caucasian samples. We show that CC carriers have impaired executive function (working memory and spatial planning). We also show, for the first time, impaired sustained attention performance in CC carriers who had experienced early life trauma compared to CC carriers without such experience. We argue that the DRD2 C957T polymorphism may confer vulnerability to schizophrenia through an impact on cognitive function and that some of these effects may be mediated by experience of early life trauma.

Butler K., Klaus K., Edwards L., and Pennington K. (2017). Elevated cortisol awakening response associated with early life stress and impaired executive function in healthy adult males. Hormones and Behavior, 95: 13-21. DOI: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2017.07.013


The cortisol awakening response (CAR) is the typical rise in cortisol levels seen shortly after awakening. The CAR is thought to index hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis) functioning (the HPA-axis being one of our brains main stress response pathways) and has been shown to be aberrant in mental health disorders such as depression. Here we show that experience of trauma in childhood or adolescence is associated with elevated CAR. We also show that the age of trauma exposure, type of trauma exposure and cumulative exposure impacts on the CAR. Specifically, trauma during childhood, experience of physical abuse/violence and a greater number of traumas experienced appears to be associated with a more pronounced effect on the CAR. We also find a positive association between CAR and problem solving/planning performance. We argue that experience of early life trauma, elevated CAR and poor problem solving may reflect a phenotype that confers vulnerability to mental health disorders and suggest future research to confirm this hypothesis.

Butler K., Rusted J., Gard P., and Jackson A. (2017). Performance monitoring in nicotine dependence: considering integration of recent reinforcement history. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 156: 63-70. DOI: 10.1016/j.pbb.2017.04.004


Impairments in performance monitoring (PM), our ability to monitor our own on-going behaviour for errors (e.g. when not being able to stop an action when we should) and conflict (e.g. when doing something that might initially be rewarding but that ultimately comes at a cost) have previously been reported in addicted populations including in nicotine dependent smokers. Contemporary models and behavioural evidence suggest that integration of previous reinforcement history (i.e. the collective information regarding the quality of our actions and choices and their outcomes over time) is an important feature of PM. However studies demonstrating PM impairments in addicted populations have typically used indices derived from reaction to task error or conflict on individual trials requiring little or no integration (e.g. post-error slowing – slowing of reaction time after an error, or error related negativity – an electrophysiological signal thought to derive from the anterior cingulate cortex after an error). This study investigates PM in current, former and never smokers using a reinforcement learning task that requires participants to integrate information regarding choices and their outcomes in order to do well. We show that former smokers (mean: 20.47 months abstinent) have the best PM ability and that current smokers (particularly those who recently smoked) have the worst PM ability. We argue that PM may be a good cognitive target for smoking cessation and suggest future prospective and intervention studies to examine this further.

ResFEST 2017

On Friday 7th July, the Trent DClinPsy Programme team (Universities of Lincoln and Nottingham), along with the FCRG, hosted the second Research Festival (ResFEST 2017) at the University of Lincoln. The event showcased and celebrated the research conducted by current and ex-trainees of the Trent DClinPsy Programme.

Also, FCRG members Dr Adrian Parke and Ross Bartels (along with a finishing undergraduate student) presented the results from one of their recent studies, both which have useful implications for clinicians. The conference also included a keynote address by Prof. Martin Tovee (from the School of Psychology) on the perception of body image in disordered eating.

Delegates were also able to attend a free networking lunch, where clinicians, practitioners, and researchers discussed research ideas and involvement with applied academics/clinicians based on the Trent programme and at the University of Lincoln. During the lunch, a selection of research posters were presented by DClinPsy and FCRG members.

Overall, the event was well-attended with a buzzing atmosphere and excellent talks from all.

Below is a list of the talks and speakers. Click on the title of the talk to download a PDF copy of the presentation.

Below the table is a selection of the tweets provided by some of the attending ResFEST delegates.

Title of Talk Speaker
Identifying developmental pathways of Non-Epileptic Attack Disorder (NEAD) using Multiple Sequential Functional Analysis (MSFA) Dr Jenna Brough
How do Clinical Psychologists best address the difficulties of care staff in supporting the sexual expression of individuals with intellectual disabilities? A Delphi Study Brad English
An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) intervention for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A case series approach Dr Lauren Roche
Age-related physical and psychological vulnerability as pathways to problem gambling in older adults Dr Adrian Parke (FCRG lead)
Keynote: The perception of body image in disordered eating Prof. Martin Tovee
Net Neutrality: The lack of association between pornography exposure and sexual functioning and well-being Ruth Charig
From Fantasy to Reality: Investigating the effect of mental contrasting on enacting a sexual fantasy Dr Ross Bartels (FCRG) & Libby-Rae Kendrick
Shades of grey: Older adults’ perceptions about how transitioning to a care home might impact on experiences of sexuality Anna Hooper
Defining and measuring adaptive behaviour in deaf adults with suspected intellectual disability Dr Kathryn Moore
Perceived barriers and facilitators to positive therapeutic change for people with Intellectual Disabilities: Client, carer, and Clinical Psychologist perspectives Dr Sarah Ramsden
A mixed methods approach investigating cognitive changes in vicarious trauma within trainee and qualified therapists Emma Millard


We look forward to next ResFEST and will keep you posted on when this will be in the future.

Dr Merdian guest edits Special Issue on online sex offending

The most recent issue of the Journal of Sexual Aggression is a special issue on the topic of ‘Online Sex Offending – Approaches to Assessment and Intervention‘. This special issue has been guest edited by FCRG’s own Dr Hannah Merdian, in collaboration with Prof. Derek Perkins.

The area of online sex offending – including the downloading, viewing, and sharing of Child Sexual Exploitation Material (CSEM), as well as online grooming and solicitation of children – is rapidly growing in terms of the depth and breadth of research and knowledge-base. Dr Merdian and Prof. Perkins are key figures in this area and, in this special issue, they have brought together a series of research articles by other key researchers (as well as book reviews and a letter from Dr Seto) that showcase some of the most recent findings, thinking, and practical advances in the area. This includes risk factors associated with undetected CSEM users, CSEM-related cognitions, an anthropological analysis of CSEM offending, sexual grooming of children, feedback from CSEM users regarding a risk-reduction programme,and more.

Many of the online articles in the Special Issue – including the Introduction by Dr Merdian and Prof. Perkins – are currently open-access and can be found by clicking on this link

New publication by Dr Ross Bartels and colleagues

FCRG member – Dr Ross Bartels – has just published a paper in Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment entitled “Assessing Sexual Interest in Children Using the Go/No-Go Association Test”, along with co-authors Prof. Anthony Beech, Dr Leigh Harkins, and Dr David Thornton.

The aim of this paper was to examine whether an indirect measure called the Go-No/Go Association Task (GNAT) is capable of assessing sexual interest in children. The authors found that men who have sexually offended against an extrafamilial child were faster at categorising child-related and sexual fantasy-related stimuli than adult-related and sexual fantasy-related stimuli (suggesting a stronger association between children and sexual fantasy). This pattern of responding was not seen in non-offenders or a group comprised of men with sexual offences against an intrafamilial child or against both adults and children.

Since individuals with extrafamilial offences tend to have a stronger sexual interest in children, these findings suggest that the GNAT is able to assess sexual interest in children. Moreover, the GNAT data correlated with the use of sexual fantasies about children in a manner that further supports this conclusion. Since the GNAT has some unique strengths as an indirect measure (e.g., it can assess single categories and absolute associations in addition to relative associations), this study provides preliminary support for the use of GNATs as a measure of sexual interest. Thus, with further corroboration, the GNAT may become a useful tool for both researchers and practitioners.

The article can be read here