Rusted Lab's blog posts tagged with 'sussex university'

Encouraging Children to Act Out!



In addition to aging and dementia, the Rusted Lab is curious about the development of children and how it compares to the aging process later on in life. Molly Berenhaus, a second year PhD student and devoted member of the Rusted lab, is currently looking at the benefits of action (e.g., hand movements) and externalisation (e.g., creating a storyboard) on children’s understanding  and appreciation of short stories.  

Over the course of this academic year, Molly has been working with children in year 5 at a local primary school to investigate the benefits of two strategies on reading comprehension processes. Specifically she’s comparing the benefits of encouraging children to construct a visual representation of a short story (“Storyboard Construction”) using plastic cut-outs to the benefits of encouraging children to act out a short story (“Active Experiencing”) using different voices and hand movements. Both strategies have been found to help children understand what they’re reading (and enjoy doing it!) but now we have to find out  what specific aspects of a story they help children understand (The layout of the scene? Information about the protagonist?). Molly’s research is interested in just that! 

To find out more, please contact Molly at

Jenny Rusted's Lab Group website.

Understanding risk factors for dementia across the lifespan



 It is inevitable that we all show a slight decline in our cognitive abilities with increasing age, but what causes some of us to ‘drop-off’ to a greater degree than others? This question is a key focus of the Rusted lab group, with much of our research targeting the APOE gene, strongly associated with both cognitive decline and risk of dementia. The APOE gene has attracted considerable research attention due to its apparent contradictory effect across the lifespan. Studies have suggested a cognitive advantage in younger years for carriers of the APOE e4 variant, in contrast to its detrimental effect in later life. As such, understanding the trajectory of this gene across the lifespan is important for advancing what we know about the pathway into dementia.

 Claire Lancaster, a first year PhD student in the Rusted lab, is currently examining this important question. Healthy adults aged 45-55 years are being invited to participate in an exploration of how attention and executive functioning differs in mid-adulthood according to APOE genotype. Using a battery of different cognitive measures, subtle differences in these processes can be identified. It is likely that some cognitive processes are more important determinants of cognitive ageing than others – for example, changes in speed of processing can affect performance across a number of tasks, whereas changes in visuospatial skills would only affect specific tasks.  By identifying the specific nature of the APOE e4 effect on cognition, we can predict its broader impact on performance. In addition to a strong behavioural focus, our work will consider individual differences in biological factors (weight, blood pressure, grip strength, alcohol intake and exercise) and lifestyle factors (occupation, education and leisure activities). The research includes these measures in the study to explore how multiple vulnerability factors for cognitive decline interact with APOE status in healthy adults.

 Volunteers are still being recruited for the research. If you are interested in participating, please contact Claire for more details (, 01273 678916). 

Jenny Rusted's Lab Group website.

Jenny Rusted's Lab Blog.

Undergrads sign up for Summer research experience.




We are really pleased that this year, three Psychology undergraduates have secured special bursaries to fund summer placements in the Rusted Lab.  Lisa Robogo was awarded a Junior Research Associate Bursary from the University of Sussex to work with our Sussex Partnership Trust colleagues on a study of interventions to help behavior management in people with dementia.  Dan Goodwin was awarded another of these competitive University Junior Research Associate bursaries to work on a behavioural genetics project, part of the new Alzheimers Society Doctoral Training Centre research programme we are beginning this year. And finally, Juliana Burgardt, a visiting student from Brazil, supported by a Science Without Frontiers bursary, will be learning about cognitive profiling and age-related changes.  It is a special pleasure to be able to introduce enthusiastic young scientists to our ongoing research activities, to let them see how things work in practice, how we work as a group, and how exciting it is to see results emerging as you follow a project through from inception to completion.  Welcome to all!


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