• Automaticity and the development of categorisation in preschool children: Understanding the importance of play

      Owen, Kay; University of Derby (2017-05)
      Categorisation is the process by which items, behaviours and events are compartmentalised according to their defining attributes or properties. This may be based on simple perceptual similarities or on more complex conceptual webs. Whatever their selection criteria, categories expedite inferential capabilities, facilitating behavioural predictions and subsequently enabling response. Categorisation waives conscious effort whilst preserving that which is salient and as such, provides a highly efficient means of delineating and organising information within semantic memory. An ability to categorise is therefore fundamental to an individual’s capacity to understand the world and a necessary precursor to academic achievement. This thesis comprises a series of studies that were devised in order to investigate categorisational development in children. Study 1 involved the development of a theoretically and practically valid testing mechanism. A sample of 159 children, aged 30-50 months, participated in a series of investigations aimed at establishing the impact of test format and presentation dimensionality on categorisation performance. As a result of this, a new test battery was devised which enabled more fine grain differentiation than had been possible with the tests used by previous researchers. The battery measured four different aspects of preschool children’s categorisational abilities -categorising according to shape; according to colour; when presented with drawings of items, and when presented with the same items in the form of toys. Results found that children’s ability to categorise differed significantly according to their sex, socio-economic background and the dimensionality of the item. Study 2 utilised the same battery with 190 participants from demographically diverse cohorts. Significant differences were found between high and low socio-economic groups and between boys and girls. A Mixed- Factorial ANOVA, with a post-hoc Bonferroni demonstrated a main effect of sex; a main effect of cohort and an interaction between sex and cohort. A Kruskal-Wallis Test also showed age to be significant, confirming the findings of previous researchers concerning a developmental trajectory. However, it also found that relatively sophisticated conceptual webs emerge earlier than had previously been thought. Whilst the results from Study 2 had demonstrated relative homogeneity amongst socio-economic groups, it was noted that participants from the most disadvantaged neighbourhood performed better than those from the other low socio-economic cohort. As the two Nurseries employed different approaches, with one offering a formal curriculum and the other emphasising child-led play, it was decided that the final study would focus on categorical development in these two cohorts. The final study therefore investigated conceptual development during 96 participants’ first twelve weeks of nursery education. Forty-eight participants were drawn from a Community Nursery with a strong emphasis on child-led play and 48 were drawn from a Nursery attached to a Primary School, where the emphasis was on more formalised learning. Children’s categorisational abilities were measured during their first week in Nursery using the test battery devised for Study 1. They were then re-tested using a matched battery twelve weeks later. Change scores were calculated and analysed using a series of one-way ANOVAs. As anticipated, all participants made gains but the children who had participated in play made significantly greater gains in three out of the four measures. It is thus asserted that play is a key conducer in cognitive development and a causal executant in establishing rudimentary automaticity and, as such, should be the polestar of preschool education. This is particularly important for boys from low socio-economic backgrounds who face contiguous disadvantage. Therefore, this research demonstrates that memory-based research with young children should be conducted with toys and objects, rather than images, and that the link between social and educational stratification has its roots in early childhood and is best addressed through the provision of high-quality play opportunities.
    • The electrophysiological correlates of maths anxety: Exploring the role of gamma activity

      Batashvili, Michael; University of Derby (2016-03)
      This thesis set out to investigate the electrophysiological correlates of maths anxiety (MA). Research has shown that those with high MA (HMA) tend to have poorer accuracy and increased reaction time on maths based tasks and that high maths anxious individuals avoid situations where they might have to use maths. This can impact on their future by restricting their degree or job prospects. Previous research has identified the behavioural cognitive and psychological effects of MA and recently studies have begun to examine the associated underlying mechanisms in the brain. Chapter one outlines the background MA behavioural and measurement research before evaluating the neurophysiological methods used in cognitive neuroscience and the use of electroencephalography (EEG) in chapter two. Chapter three continues by outlining previous research concerning the neurophysiological processing of maths and number before evaluating relevant neurophysiological research concerning MA. Four experimental studies are conducted, exploring the neurophysiological underpinnings of MA research using EEG. Each of these recruits 30 participants and measures of electro-cortical (Event Related Potentials (ERPs), Global Field Power, Frequency etc.) and questionnaire measures are implemented. The first study aimed to identify whether the behavioural effects of MA (poorer accuracy and increased reaction time) are consistent with ERP differences (component amplitude and latency differences) in the brain and to understand why these effects are experienced. This revealed no significant comparisons between ERP components and behavioural responses involving low and high maths anxious individuals, but this may have been due to the lack of an anxious response by using a verification task, rather than requiring calculation. Study two introduces the measurement of gamma activity as a neurophysiological measure of anxiety and threat processing and brings three core areas of anxiety research together: Previous studies outline high anxiety in connection with gamma modulation, also showing gamma band activity is associated with the amygdala and finally, that the amygdala is responsible for the processing of threat perception and anxiety. This research has not been brought together when studying MA. Results produced similar ERP findings to the previous study but the introduction of gamma activity into the research provided the first differences between high and low MA (LMA) groups, showing significantly greater gamma activity levels in HMA individuals. However, this study only used numerically-based tasks, thus the third study implemented a non-numerical condition to act as a control. Study three replicates the findings showing a reduced level of gamma activity in high MA individuals for the non-numerical based task, however, this was also reduced for the simple maths task. It was theorised that it is more likely to be the initial threat perception that represents the anxious response and gamma activity increases. To test this and remove any working memory demands, the fourth study implements the presentation of single digit observation (using single digit numbers and letters). Even though there was no demand on working memory, high maths anxious participants displayed similar levels of gamma activity as low maths anxious individuals during letter observation. However, they had significantly greater levels during the observation of number. Findings suggest that HMA individuals may not only struggle with the processing of maths stimuli, but may have a threat-related response to the simple observation of numerical stimuli. This implies that HMA individuals consistently apply an avoidance technique due to a threat response associated with increased levels of gamma activity. The findings of the each study are finally discussed in terms of their contribution to the neurophysiological underpinnings of MA, the first exploration of this using gamma activity, future research and the extent that number anxiety may act as a precursor or sine qua non to MA.
    • Limitations and trainability of the respiratory system during exercise with thoracic loads

      Faghy, Mark; University of Derby (2016-02-01)
      Thoracic loads (i.e., a heavy backpack) commonly used in occupational and recreational settings significantly challenge human physiological systems and increase the work of breathing, which may promote respiratory muscle fatigue and negatively impacts whole body performance during physical tasks. Accordingly this thesis: (Chapter number: II) designed a laboratory based protocol that closely reflects occupational demands and (III) assessed the effect that load carriage (LC) has upon physiological and respiratory muscle function. Consequently the thesis addressed (IV) acute, (V) chronic and (VI) functional inspiratory muscle loading strategies to assess the limitations and trainability of the respiratory muscles to load carriage performance. The novel laboratory protocol, performed wearing a 25 kg backpack load, combined submaximal load carriage (LC; 60 min treadmill march at 6.5 km·h-1) and self-paced time trial exercise (LCTT; 2.4 km) to better reflect the physiological demands of occupational performance (between trials mean difference -0.34 ± 0.89 min, coefficient of variation 10.5%). Following LC, maximal inspiratory muscle pressure (PImax) and maximal expiratory muscle pressure (P¬Emax) were reduced by 11% and 13% respectively (P<0.05), and further by 5% and 6%, respectively (P< 0.05), after LCTT. Acute inspiratory loading (2 × 30 forced inspiratory efforts 40% PImax) following an active warm-up (10 min lactate turnpoint) failed to improve LCTT despite a transient increase in PImax of ~7% (P<0.05). Chronic inspiratory loading (6 wk, 50% PImax, 30 breaths twice daily) increased PImax (31%, p<0.05) reduced HR and perceptual responses post-LC, and improved LCTT (8%, P< 0.05) with no change in a placebo control. Combining IMT with functional core muscle exercises improved PImax and LCTT by 7% and 4% respectively (P< 0.05), which was greater than traditional IMT alone. Acute, chronic and functional inspiratory muscle loading strategies did not protect against respiratory muscle or locomotor muscle fatigue during LC and LCTT.
    • The impact of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) on quality of life: exploration, measurement and intervention.

      Williams, Sophie; University of Derby (2016)
      Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine disorders amongst women, estimated to affect one out of 10 women. Symptoms include infertility, obesity, alopecia, acne, hirsutism and menstrual irregularities. Women with the syndrome are also more likely to experience co-morbid physical and psychological conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, endometrial cancer and also depression and anxiety. PCOS has also been found to have a negative impact on quality of life. This thesis aimed to further understanding, and improve quality of life of women with PCOS in the UK. To achieve this, the thesis aimed to investigate and identify how women with PCOS in the UK perceive and define their quality of life and to further understanding of the day-to-day experience of living with PCOS. Moreover, in order to measure quality of life, it aimed to develop and validate a UK disease-specific quality of life measure for women with PCOS. It also aimed to identify, develop and test a pilot intervention to increase quality of life in women with PCOS. To achieve these aims a mixed-methods approach was taken employing a variety of data generation and collection methods including: photovoice, online Skype™ interviews; LimeSurvey and Qualtrics. The findings of this thesis emphasise that PCOS has a negative impact on quality of life; encompassing psychological, social, environmental, and physical domains of quality of life. Women with PCOS who experienced the symptoms of infertility, hirsutism, weight, alopecia, skin discolouration, skin tags and mood swings had significantly lower scores of overall quality of life than those women who did not experience the symptoms. In addition, those women with PCOS who had a diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression had reduced quality of life. The dissemination of these findings will enable health care professionals to better understand the experience of living with PCOS and its impact on quality of life. Moreover, this thesis identifies many areas for future research which will enable a better understanding of the impact of PCOS on quality of life. Finally, this thesis makes recommendations for clinical practice which include improvement of support from health care professionals for women with PCOS in order to help them better manage their symptoms, and therefore improve their overall quality of life.
    • Stability of protein-based drugs: Herceptin a case study

      Shropshire, Ian Michael; University of Derby (2016)
      There is a lack of stability data for in-use parenteral drugs. Manufacturers state a shelf-life of 24 hours for infusions based on microbiological contamination. The lack of data is of particular significance with protein-based drugs where action is determined by their complex structure. A range of techniques are required to assess stability, including biological assessment to support other data. There has been an increase in published data but often the few studies that address in-use stability are incomplete as they do not employ biological assessment to assess potency. Trastuzumab is an antibody-based drug used to treat cancers where the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2) is over expressed or over abundant on the cell surface. Trastuzumab infusions have been assigned by the manufacturer to be stable for 24 hours at temperatures not exceeding 30 oC. If stability is shown beyond this point it would enable extended storage and administration. To this end, methods were selected and developed with biological assessment central to the approach to assess clinically relevant infusion concentrations (0.5 mg/mL and 6.0 mg/mL) and a sub-clinical infusion concentration (0.1 mg/mL). This may enhance instability and provide opportunity to study degradation. A Cell Counting Kit CCK8 (Sigma Aldrich) was ultimately adopted as a basis for a colorimetric assay to assess cell viability. Attenuated Total Reflectance Infra-Red Spectroscopy and Size Exclusion Chromatography methods were developed to evaluate secondary structure and aggregation respectively. These methods were applied to a shelf-life study (43 days) as a collaboration with Quality Control North West (NHS) and Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology NHS Foundation Trust, Clatterbridge Hospital. There was no evidence of degradation and no loss efficacy for clinically relevant infusions (0.5 mg/mL and 6.0 mg/mL) over 43 days, whilst the sub-clinical infusions (0.1 mg/mL) developed particles after 7 days of storage between 2 oC and 8 oC. Furthermore, evidence of stability at day 119 gave increased confidence for the data from earlier time points. This work assisted in the shelf-life being recommended to be extended to 28 days for Trastuzumab stored in polyolefin IV bags at concentrations between 0.5 mg/mL and 6.0 mg/mL with 0.9% saline between 2 oC and 8 oC. However, infusions with concentrations below 0.5 mg/mL were not recommended for storage.
    • Doing it the best way that we can :

      Phillips, Elly; University of Derby (2012)