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Department of Psychology

Department of Psychology

We are amongst the Top 10 Psychology Departments in the UK with an outstanding academic staff highly rated for both teaching and research and are consistently ranked as one of the best Psychology departments for employability. In the REF 2014 ranking for Psychology, Neuroscience and Psychiatry, 83%
of our research was assessed as “internationally excellent quality” or “world leading". We are a collegiate and welcoming department committed to success for all who work here. One mark of our commitment is our Athena Swan Silver Award which the department received in 2013 and was renewed in 2017.

People who hear voices can detect hidden speech in unusual sounds

People who hear voices that other people can’t hear may use unusual skills when their brains process new sounds, according to new research.

The study, published in the academic journal Brain, found that voice-hearers could detect disguised speech-like sounds more quickly and easily than people who had never had a voice-hearing experience. The research was led by Durham University and University College London (UCL).

Mission completed!

Students and staff celebrated the end of the exam period at the annual Finalist Party. What a relief … for students and staff!

Employability Retreat 2017

The Employability Retreat 2017 was held in (sunny!) Allendale, Northumberland, where our undergraduate students and staff enjoyed three days of outdoor fun and informal, extra-curricular employability activities which, we hope, will make our students more likely to gain employment and to be successful in their chosen occupation.

The Psychology Department has entered the top 10 in the Guardian league table for 2018 and was ranked 7th up from 16th last year.

Postgraduate student was awarded £1000 for bringing science into public.

Miss Emine Gurbuz, Global Citizenship Programme (GCP) scholar, and Ph.D. candidate in Psychology, was awarded £1000 for her contribution to the Café Scientifique at Ustinov College. The Café Scientifique brings science from the lab into the café. Congratulations Emine!


Dr Sophie Hodgetts (Ustinov College) has successfully completed her PhD in Psychology. The title of her thesis: "The neuromodulatory properties of gonadal steroid hormones with regard to individual differences in cognition and brain organisation." Sophie has also completed a BSc Hons Psychology (Applied) and MSc Cognitive Neuroscience in our department. Recently, she has accepted a new post at the University of Sunderland, where she will continue her academic career as a Lecturer in the Psychology Department.


Miss Jasmin Amber Strickland (Hatfield College), has successfully completed her Masters of Science by Thesis (MRES) in Psychology. The title of her thesis: “Multiple processes in the short-term reduction of palatability in mice”. Jasmin will continue to study for her PhD in the Department.

Rising Stars Research Symposium.

Harriet Welch (left), Naina Kant (middle) and Lauren Jeffers (right) presented research from their undergraduate dissertation projects at the Faculty of Science's research symposium. The event showcases the success and breadth of research within the faculty at undergraduate level.

1.1 Million Euro Multi -Site Project.

Dr Dan Smith (Centre) was the lead applicant for a consortium that was awarded 1.1m euros for the multi-site project "A motor bias theory of attention" funded by ESRC (Durham, UK), DFG (Munich, Germany) and NWO (Utrecht, Netherlands).

The Psychology Department is ranked highly in national and international league tables focusing on research power, teaching quality and student satisfaction. We are proud of our Athena Swan Silver Award which recognizes our sustained commitment to gender equality.

Integration of cognitive and behavioural functions in the hippocampo-prefrontal-subcortical circuit.

3rd November 2017, 16:00 to 17:00, L47, Dr Tobias Bast, Nottingham University

The brain circuit consisting of the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and connected subcortical sites mediates and integrates important cognitive and behavioural functions, including memory, attention, cognitive control, emotional, motivational and sensorimotor processes.

Over recent years, we have combined translational behavioral tests with in vivo neurobiological methods in rats in order to investigate two main ideas: (1) The hippocampal connectivity to prefrontal and subcortical sites may enable the translation of every-day memories (e.g., of where you parked your car), which depend on the hippocampus, into adaptive behaviour (e.g., getting back to the car), which requires behavioural and cognitive processes mediated by prefrontal-subcortical circuits (Bast et al., 2009, PLoS Biol; Bast, 2011, Curr Opin Neurobiol). Our recent research focused on determining the contributions of the medial prefrontal cortex and the ventral striatum to behaviour based on hippocampus-dependent place learning. (2) Dysfunction within this hippocampo-prefrontal-subcortical circuit, especially within the hub regions – hippocampus and prefrontal cortex – may disrupt the wide range of cognitive functions integrated within this circuit and, thereby, account for cognitive deficits characterizing many neuropsychiatric disorders. More specifically, neural disinhibition (i.e., a regional reduction of inhibitory GABA function) within hippocampus and prefrontal cortex has been associated with important cognitive disorders, including schizophrenia, cognitive ageing and Alzheimer’s disease. We tested the hypothesis that such neural disinhibition causes clinically relevant deficits, including attentional and memory deficits, by disrupting spatio-temporal control of regional neural activity and causing aberrant drive of projections (Pezze et al., 2014, J Neurosci; McGarrity et al., 2016, Cereb Cortex; Bast et al., 2017, Brit J Pharmacol). In this talk, I will present key findings of this research.

Relevant review papers:

Bast T, M Pezze, McGarrity S (2017) Cognitive deficits caused by prefrontal and hippocampal neural disinhibition. Br J Pharmacol: in press (

Bast T (2011) The hippocampal learning-behavior translation and the functional significance of hippocampal dysfunction in schizophrenia. Curr Opin Neurobiol 21: 492-501.

Contact Details

Durham City
Psychology Department
Durham University
Science Laboratories
South Road
Tel:+44(0)191 3343240

Queen's Campus
Psychology Department
Durham University
Queen's Campus
University Boulevard
TS17 6BH
Tel:+44(0)191 3340101

Durham subjects in QS World Subject Rankings Top 100

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In May 2017 the Department of Psychology was delighted to achieve the 'Athena Swan Silver Award' recognising our commitment to advancing women's careers in STEMM academia. For more information please follow link.

World leading research across all Durham University subjects

Durham University REF results