At the Morein Lab, we aim to advance scientific understanding and knowledge of how problems with cognition and response control can contribute to mental health conditions. Currently, our areas of research include:

Hoarding behaviours

Many of us can relate to the idea of having ‘too much stuff’ and wishing our possessions did not clutter our lives and living spaces. Still, we often find it difficult and stressful to dispose of many of our belongings. When these behaviours lead to difficulties in everyday life and cause distress, individuals can be diagnosed with the condition Hoarding Disorder. Those individuals have accumulated so many possessions that these fill and clutter their living areas, causing considerable distress and suffering, even impairing their ability to work and socialise. We are increasingly exploring how hoarding can come about and what is and can be done to support those affected by it. Examples of current research include looking at possible links between the difficulties experienced by those with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and the difficulties experienced by those with hoarding. As part of the ARU Possessions and Hoarding Collective, we are also working in collaboration with colleagues in ARU Social Work and the ARU Medical School on advocacy and training for healthcare providers. We are also part of the UK Hoarding Research Network and are associated iwth the UK Hoarding Partnership.

Self-regulation and habitual behaviours

This research focuses on how individuals control their behaviour and mental processes, mainly when circumstances deem them inappropriate or disruptive. We have been particularly interested in how response inhibition and cognitive flexibility interact with emotion and motivation. We examine the self-regulation of actions, attention and emotion in healthy individuals in relation to incentives and in those characterised by difficulties in control processes. 

Coping with uncertainty

Having to deal with uncertainty is inherent to our daily lives. Most individuals find being uncertain in situations with significant consequences, extremely unpleasant and stressful. For example, when patients have to wait for the results of a medical procedure. However, there are considerable differences between people in their reactions to less extreme forms of uncertainty. Individuals may differ in their tendency to seek more information to help avoid uncertainty, or in their propensity to check previous actions or decisions. We investigate how people react when faced with uncertain situations, both in terms of their subjective experience and their behaviour, and how this relates to mental health issues.

Compulsive and impulsive behaviour

Both compulsivity and impulsivity are characterised in part by reduced control, albeit in different ways. Compulsive and impulsive behaviours pose challenges in how they are understood, being multifaceted constructs that underlie different aspects of behaviour. Moreover, both pose complex challenges affecting the lives of many individuals. We are interested in understanding the contributors to dimensional conditions such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, where people can be compelled to perform repetitive actions and rituals despite considerable distress and adverse consequences.