In Conversation… Prof Elaine Fox

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Professor Elaine Fox, Professor of Psychology & Affective Science, University of Oxford, and UKRI Mental Health Networks Impact & Engagement Coordinator talks to freelance journalist Jo Carlowe.

Professor Fox discusses the risk and preventative factors around mental health including the role of resilience, cognitive and affective flexibility, memory bias and negative bias. Also covered is her role in UKRI’s Mental Health Research Matters network aiming to use multi-disciplinary approaches and encourage a national conversation on mental health.

Follow Elaine on Twitter @profelainefox

You can listen to this podcast directly on our website or on the following platforms; SoundCloudiTunesSpotifyCastBox, DeezerGoogle Podcasts and Radio.com (not available in the EU).

I am interested in the nature of human emotions and why people differ so much from each other in how they react to similar environmental situations. A current research focus is cognitive and affective flexibility and how these fundamental mechanisms affect psychological health and wellbeing.

In a recently completed programme of research funded by a European Research Council Advanced Investigator Award – The CogBIAS project – we investigated the cognitive and genetic mechanisms underpinning why some people flourish and others struggle. In a longitudinal study with over 500 Oxfordshire adolescents we have found that certain combinations of subtle cognitive biases are linked to emotional vulnerability on the one hand, and resilience and mental wellbeing on the other. We have also found that certain ‘polygenic risk scores’ can affect the sensitivity with which people pick up emotional cues from the environment. We now have a rich data set from this project which will keep us busy for years to come.

I have recently been appointed as the national Mental Health Networks Impact and Public Engagement Coordinator by the UK Department of Research and Innovation (UKRI).This role supports one-third of my time to work with eight mental health networks all around the UK to truly change the mental health research landscape. With a coordination team from the McPin Foundation, Mental Elf, and Sixth Sense Media we are working with the networks to do all we can to ensure that mental health research includes truly multidisciplinary teams, including people with expertise from lived experience of mental health problems, to help generate a new mental health science that genuinely makes a difference to people’s lives. (Bio via The University of Oxford)

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