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Project title: Integrating insights from neuroscience research into the development of interventions to change health behaviour

Primary supervisor: Dr Jilly Martin

Co-supervisor/s: Dr Chris Martin

Project description: Health psychology draws on psychological theory and research to develop interventions that seek to improve the health of individuals and society. Research in neuroscience increasingly addresses the biological underpinnings of the cognitive and social-psychological processes that drive much of our behaviour. Is it possible to make stronger links between these two fields of research in order to guide the development of more effective intervention strategies, targeted at specific groups and delivered via particular modes?

For example, the brain activation correlates of engaging in risk-seeking behaviours, decision making processes, or social reasoning have been investigated using brain imaging techniques such as fMRI. Other studies have revealed brain areas that may be important for goal setting or response inhibition. There are also basic neuobiological constraints that may impact upon social cognitive processes. These processes are exactly the target of behaviour change interventions. This research will investigate exciting questions about whether insights from neuroscience research can be used (and how) to guide the development of more effective behavioural interventions.

Part one of this project will be a systematic literature review exploring the extent to which neurobiological data and theory currently informs practice in health psychology and intervention design. Part two will involve an assessment of how the two fields can usefully and appropriately be integrated in relation to specific behavioural domains. Part three will develop and test a new theoretical model for intervention development that explicitly integrates neurobiological insights.

Formal enquiries should be addressed to: Dr Jilly Martin (jilly.martin@sheffield.ac.uk) or Dr Chris Martin (c.martin@sheffield.ac.uk)

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