Brown Bag Talk by A/P Stuart Derbyshire on 12 September

September 8, 2014


Speaker: A/P Stuart Derbyshire

Title: Determining the neural determinants of pain

Date: 12 September 2014, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


The results of functional imaging studies have demonstrated that there is a characteristic ‘neuromatrix’ for pain involving the thalamus, primary and secondary somatosensory cortices and prefrontal, anterior cingulate and insular cortices. This finding has been replicated in many studies and complements the psychological understanding of pain as a multidimensional experience involving sensory, affective and cognitive processes. For all its apparent sophistication, however, it is arguable whether functional imaging has provided anything more than a highly sophisticated description of pain. Any mechanism that might explain or determine the experience of pain remains elusive. One approach to this problem is to move away from static descriptions of brain function and explore the underlying connectivity of functional  brain regions. Chronic functional pain, for example, might be understood as a failure of connectivity from brain stem structures to cortical regions that typically dampen pain experience. Preliminary attempts to demonstrate such failed connectivity in fibromyalgia patients will be presented. Another approach to the problem of descriptive functional studies is to accept that pain is fundamentally subjective and so cannot be reduced to neural networks, no matter how sophisticated the modeling might be. Trying to develop a theory of pain via functional imaging might be like trying to develop a theory of carpets via physics.

About the Speaker:

Stuart is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at NUS and A*STAR-NUS Clinical Imaging Research Centre (CIRC). He obtained his PhD at the University of London in 1995 and shortly after left for Pittsburgh and then UCLA. After a return to the UK and the University of Birmingham, he arrived at NUS last year. Stuart’s main research area is the relationship between objectivity (such as the wavelength of light) and perceptual experience (such as the colour blue). With brain imaging he tracks the neural basis for sensation and, apart from having fun doing cool things, the aim is to understand disturbing and painful disorders of perception


A/P Leher Singh’s research finds advantages for bilingual infants

September 3, 2014









A/P Leher Singh was the lead author on a recent paper in Child Development that shows that six-month-old infants exposed to two languages show better learning and memory than infants exposed to only one language. To read more about this groundbreaking work, go to the links below:

Brown Bag Talk by A/P Christopher L. Asplund on 5 September

September 1, 2014



Speaker: A/P Christopher L. Asplund

Title: Don’t be surprised: Unexpected events reveal much about the control of attention

Date: 5 September 2014, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


Attention is the process by which we select and enhance some information for further cognitive processing. Although attention is often under our control (voluntary), it can also be powerfully captured by unexpected events in the environment. Yet for coherent behavior to emerge, the control of attention has to be coordinated. In this talk, I will explore what we have learned about attentional control from the Surprise-induced Blindness paradigm, in which the presentation of a novel, unexpected, and task-irrelevant stimulus virtually abolishes conscious detection of a target presented within half a second after the ‘Surprise’ stimulus. The neural correlates of the effect suggest that the lateral prefrontal cortex underlies the coordination of attention, whereas numerous behavioral studies have allowed us to better understand the factors influencing the trade-off between staying on task and attending to what is new. These factors include instruction, experience, and individual differences in related attentional limitations.

About the Speaker:

Chris Asplund is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Social Sciences at Yale-NUS College. He earned his AB in Cognitive Psychology from Princeton University in 2003, having spent part of his undergraduate career at University College London and Ohio State. His interest in the neural basis of cognition then led him to René Marois’ lab at Vanderbilt University, where he studied the limits of human attention, working memory, and reasoning using both behavioral measures and functional neuroimaging (fMRI). Soon after receiving his PhD in 2010, he moved to Singapore, where he was a Research Fellow working with Michael Chee at Duke-NUS. He joined Yale-NUS in May 2013.

Brown Bag Talk by A/P Konstadina Griva on 29 August

August 25, 2014


Speaker: A/P Konstadina Griva

Title: HED SMART – the hemodialysis self management randomized trial. A brief low intensity intervention to improve outcomes in hemodialysis patients

Date: 29 August 2014, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


Introduction and Aims: Adherence to treatment recommendations on diet, fluid and medication is important to maximize good clinical outcomes in Hemodialysis yet it remains suboptimal and not well-understood. This trial set out to examine the effect of the HED- SMART intervention, a four-session, group-delivered self-management intervention on treatment adherence indicators.

Methods: Eligible HD patients were randomized to either usual care (N= 133) or HED-SMART intervention (n=102). Measures of self-report adherence, self-management skills and biochemical markers were collected at baseline, immediately and at 3 and 9 months post-intervention. The intervention was facilitated by renal healthcare professionals and involved problemsolving and goal-setting for fluid control, diet and medication. 

Results: A total of 235 participants were enrolled [mean age ± 53.46 (±10.41) years]. The study was completed by 74.8%. Significant differences between groups were found in change in interdialytic weight gains, potassium and phosphate levels during the intervention phase and the 3-month follow-up indicating improved dietary/fluid control and medication intake for the intervention participants (all p <.01). The Improvements in weight gains were maintained by 9 months yet the change in phosphate and potassium levels at 9 months was small and not significant (p = 0.08). Significant differences between groups were found in secondary outcomes across all time points: self-reported adherence, self-management skills and self- efficacy. There were no adverse effects.

Conclusions: These analyses indicate the efficacy of the HED-SMART program with significant post-intervention improvements in both clinical markers and self-report adherence. These observed improvements, if supported and maintained at the longer follow-up (18 months), could significantly reduce ESRD-related complications in the longer term. Given the feasibility of this kind of program, it has strong potential for providing effective support to many hemodialysis patients in the future.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Konstadina Griva is an Associate Professor in Psychology at NUS. She received her MSC Health Psych (1997) and PhD (2004) from University College London UK where she worked as a Senior Research Fellow until 2008. A/P Konstadina Griva joined NUS in 2008.

Brown Bag Talk by Mr. Syaheed Jabar on 22 August

August 18, 2014


Speaker: Mr. Syaheed Jabar

Title: Orienting to probable stimuli increases speed, precision, and kurtosis. A study in perceptual estimation

Date: 22 August 2014, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


Stimulus probabilities affect detection performance. Rare targets, even in security or medical screenings, are missed more often than frequent ones. To minimize such probability-related costs, there is a need to understand how probability effects relate to perceptual processes. A previous experiment demonstrated that smaller errors were made when estimating orientations of exogenously-cued spatial Gabors. Exogenous cues might be biasing perceptual processing towards the features in the cued location, and enhancing the perceptual representations of the target. Here, the same “attentional” effects were replicated without the use of explicit cues. Instead, different location-orientation conjunctions occurred with different probabilities. Across different probability distributions, it was consistently observed that participants rapidly developed faster and more precise estimations for higher-probability tilts. This occurred despite participants not being instructed on the underlying probability distributions, despite participants not being able to indicate confidence differences, despite the probability distribution being complex, and despite probability differences being fine-grained. High-probability tilts were also consistently associated with a distribution of angular errors that were more kurtotic than for low-probability tilts. Mixture model analyses suggested that these kurtosis differences reflect a mix of ‘precise’ and ‘coarse’ estimations, with high-probability tilts being associated with more of the former. Additionally, near-vertical orientations were associated with an increased kurtosis, particularly when vertical tilts were probable. A neurobiological simulation further suggests that these observed perceptual effects are mathematically consistent with stimulus probability affecting the width and mixture of V1 population tuning functions. Similar to mechanisms underlying perceptual biases, these findings suggest that acquired information might be affecting neural sensitivity to result in better-encoded perceptual representations for high-probability tilts.

About the Speaker:

Syaheed received his B.Soc.Sci. (Hons.) degree majoring in Psychology from the National University of Singapore in 2013, where he was also in the University Scholars Programme. He is currently in the psychology (Cognitive Neuroscience) PhD program at the University of Waterloo, supervised by Dr. Britt Anderson. He is particularly interested in studying, and computationally modelling, perceptual and attentional effects. He prefers writing code to writing papers.

Dr. Michelle See on “Talking Point”

August 12, 2014

Dr. Michelle See recently participated in a Talking Point episode which discussed kind and gracious behaviors in Singapore.






To watch this, go to



Brown Bag Talk by Ms. Yeo Geck Hong on 15 August

August 11, 2014


Speaker: Ms. Yeo Geck Hong

Title: The Characteristics and Influences of Paternal and Maternal Emotion Socialisation on Adolescents’ Emotion Regulation

Date: 15 August 2014, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


The present study examined the characteristics and influences of paternal and maternal emotion socialisation – parental reactions and emotional expressivity – on the emotion regulation of 115 Singapore adolescents aged 11-19. Results indicated both divergences and convergences in the characteristics of parental reactions vis-à-vis the findings established in the East and the West. Notably, some of the parental reactions that surfaced from the study were distinctive. Further, results signified the need to investigate both paternal and maternal emotion socialisation and their influences on adolescents’ emotion regulation.

About the Speaker:

Geck Hong received her bachelor’s degree majoring in Psychology from the National University of Singapore (NUS). She is currently pursuing her M.Soc.Sci and her main research examines parental emotion socialisation of adolescents.

New Staff: Dr. Yu Rongjun and Dr. Clare Henn-Haase

August 11, 2014





Dr. Rongjun Yu joined our department in October 2014. He obtained his M.S. in Psychology from Peking University, under the supervision of Prof. Xiaolin Zhou. In 2011, he completed his Ph.D. in Psychology from MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, UK, working with Dean Mobbs and Andy Calder. Prior to starting his position with NUS, he did research in Caltech in Pasadena, Mass General Hospital in Boston, as well as South China Normal University in China.

His research interests lie in understanding the psychological and neural mechanisms underlying economic and social decision making. He investigates these questions using novel behavioural tasks combined with neuroscience techniques including fMRI, ERP, tDCS, and TMS. He is also interested in how motivational and cognitive changes over the lifespan affect decisions, how culture shapes decision making, and how decision making skills develop among children. His research agenda has the potential to further elucidate decision making processes across life span and help identify the neural underpinnings of psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety. He aspires to enhance our understanding of decision biases and can be used to help nudge people to make better choices.





Dr. Clare Henn-Haase joined our department in July 2014 from New York University Medical Center, NY.  She obtained her PsyD at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology (Argosy University), Chicago, IL USA in 2000.  Prior to accepting a position at NUS, she worked as an Assistant Professor and clinical director in the PTSD Research Program at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and San Francisco Veterans’ Affairs (SFVA) followed by New York University Langone Medical Center (NYULMC) where she remains on staff as an adjunct assistant professor.  Her research interests include trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) particularly with veterans, police officers, and women who have suffered interpersonal violence.  She is interested in randomized controlled treatment trials applying empirically supported evidence-based cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat PTSD.   She is currently working to complete a multi-site randomized-controlled treatment (RCT) trial at Bellevue Hospital investigating the effectiveness of Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIR) treatment with women suffering from PTSD due to interpersonal violence.  In addition, she is working on manuscripts from studies conducted with police officers and veterans from the USA, including attachment as a predictor of PTSD in police officers, neuro-psychological testing comparing cognitive functioning in veterans with and without PTSD, and assessment measures of PTSD including the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) according to DSM-IV and DSM-5, and the PTSD Checklist-5 in Vietnam veterans and female patients enrolled in the STAIR treatment trial.

Dr. Henn-Haase has received training, certification, and experience in cognitive-behavioral treatment for trauma including Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Prolonged Exposure (PE), Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Trauma Focused treatment for PTSD.  She is interested in the adaptation of empirically supported evidence-based treatments for PTSD in Southeast Asian cultures and the dissemination of treatment through tele-health modalities to reach more rural populations.  She is also interested in developing training programs and in trauma treatment at NUS, as well as developing collaborations for experiential training with neighboring countries in Southeast Asia.

Brown Bag Special Guest Talk by Prof Paul Bloom on 11 August

August 6, 2014


Speaker: Professor Paul Bloom

Title: Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil

Date: 11 August 2014, 11am

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)

About the Speaker:

Paul Bloom is Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science. He studies the development and nature of our common-sense understanding of ourselves and other people. Most of his research projects are student-initiated, and all of the work in his laboratory is strongly interdisciplinary, bringing in theory and research from areas such as cognitive, social, and developmental psychology, evolutionary theory, linguistics, theology, and philosophy. His current research explores the following areas:

Bodies and souls: There is considerable evidence that we see the world as Descartes did, as containing physical things (or bodies) and social entities (or souls). I am interested in how this common-sense dualism emerges in development, and the implications that it has for domains such as morality and religion.

Art and fiction: There are some hard questions that arise when we consider the human capacity to make sense of artwork and fiction. What distinguishes art from everything else? Why do adults consider forgeries to be inferior to the real thing (even if they are perfect duplicates) and when in development does this intuition emerge? And how do we think about the relationship between different fictional worlds, such as the fictional world of Harry Potter and the (also fictional, but very different) world of Batman and Robin?

Moral Reasoning:  Why do we find certain actions to be disgusting, and why does this emotional reaction lead to moral condemnation? What are children’s intuitions about fair and unfair distribution of resources? When does moral hypocrisy emerge? One goal of this research is to understand the developing interplay between deliberative reasoning and the moral emotions.

Publications include How Pleasure Works: The new science of why we like what we like (New York: Norton); Moral psychology and moral progress (Nature); First-person Plural (Atlantic Monthly); Childhood origins of adult resistance to science (Science) – with D. S. Weisberg; and, Descartes’ Baby: How the science of child development explains what makes us human (New York: Basic Books).

Earn a Master’s and Honours Degree in 5 years: New NUS Psychology Concurrent Degree Programme

June 19, 2014

NUS CDP in Psychology