Spearman Medal win for Dr Iroise Dumontheil

Top honours for Birkbeck psychologist and her work to help us understand everyday thought processes

Iroise Dumontheil - 2015 Spearman Medal winner

For the second time in three years a Birkbeck, University of London psychologist has been awarded the prestigious Spearman Medal. Dr Iroise Dumontheil, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Psychological Sciences, was named as this year’s recipient for her work investigating a region of the brain at the crossroads of executive control and social cognition.

The Spearman Medal – inaugurated in 1965 and the oldest award of the British Psychological Society - is awarded annually to an early-career psychologist for outstanding published work in psychology, and has been won by many of the major figures in UK psychology.

The win is recognition for Dr Dumontheil’s research in the social cognition and executive functions associated with the rostral prefrontal cortex, particularly in adulthood and their development during adolescence. Social cognition refers to how we interact with other people and think about our own thoughts and emotions and those of others. Executive functions refer to a set of thought processes that allow us to control our attention, plan, and achieve our goals.

Dr Dumontheil said: “I am extremely pleased and honoured to have been awarded the Spearman Medal. I feel very lucky to have been able to do my doctoral and post-doctoral research in great research departments and would like to thank my supervisors and mentors over the years: Professors Alain Berthoz, Paul Burgess, John Duncan, and Torkel Klingberg, and in particular Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore who nominated me for this award.

“As a lecturer at Birkbeck, I am currently involved in a project investigating the effect of mobiles phones on adolescent cognition (with a team at Imperial College) and whether training children to ‘stop and think’ may help their performance in maths and science (with other researchers at Birkbeck and the Institute of Education).”

With the Spearman Medal coming to Birkbeck once again, Professor Mike Oaksford, Head of the Department of Psychological Sciences, said: “This is a wonderful honour for Iroise, a dedicated member of Birkbeck. It is recognition for her ongoing investigations into the role of the rostrolateral prefrontal cortex, work that is helping us to better understand one of the last brain regions to reach maturity in humans.”

While Dr Dumontheil’s research continues to focus on the development of the brain in adolescence, she is also interested in whether psychology and cognitive neuroscience research can inform education, and whether appropriate training intervention (such as mindfulness meditation training) can improve people’s ability to regulate their emotions and focus their attention.

As this year’s Spearman medal recipient, Dr Dumontheil will give a speech at the AGM of the British Psychological Society.