Commendation for George Stothart
Supervisor: Dr Nina Kazanina
PhD project: Deficits and Compensation in Healthy Ageing. Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Mismatch Negativity Study of Visual, Auditory and Audiovisual Processing.
Description written by project supervisor
George Stothart’s PhD work used electroencephalography (EEG, a non-invasive brain recording technique) to explore sensory processing in healthy older individuals and individuals with dementia. In these groups sensory input to the brain is weakened, however there are endogenous compensation strategies to partially compensate for sensory loss. George’s research on healthy ageing examined possible compensation mechanisms and their limits, but unlike most research that is uni-modal, he directly compared vision and audition. This led to an important finding that auditory and visual modalities compensate for age-related sensory loss in distinct ways, and a theoretical proposal on why such a distinction exists. On dementia front, George’s work provides potential for complementing existing costly imaging-based dementia diagnosis with robust and affordable EEG-based dementia markers, a line of research that he has followed in his postdoctoral research.
George’s PhD project is a merger and extension of research areas for his two supervisors, Dr Andrea Tales (Swansea) and myself. George was the driving force behind the project, and managed it successfully at every stage, from securing an NHS ethical approval and participant recruitment, to innovative data analysis, to producing a compelling thesis that provides valuable empirical data and furthers theoretical understanding of cognitive ageing and dementia.
I grew up in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, where I went to the Royal Grammar School High Wycombe. I left for Swansea University in 1998 to study Psychology. I loved being out of the south east, and living by the sea and have lived in the West ever since. After university I worked at the Transport Research Laboratory as my first graduate job. It gave me some very useful research experience that later helped me get my foot in the door of academic research. I left TRL at 23 to travel, work and live in New Zealand. I moved to Bristol with my partner in 2006 after travelling and working as a chef in St Ives, we both were looking for a more exciting and dynamic place to live. We've loved it ever since.
I started work as an RA in the School of Experimental Psychology in May 2007 and straight away felt very much at home in the working environment. I enjoyed myself so much as an RA that I decided quite quickly that academic research was where I wanted to be and so I began the search for PhD funding, which I got in Spring 2009. I enjoyed my PhD research enormously, I had a great deal of autonomy but also the right level of support. The School has a great combination of really smart but very approachable people. You never feel intimidated to talk to anyone, or ask a question. I think that's really important and I know it's not always the case so I always appreciated it. I'm now doing postdoctoral research in the School of Psychology that is funded by the Bristol’s Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research, and writing grant applications to try and keep doing the type of research that I've enjoyed over the last 6 years. Ultimately I would like to make a meaningful contribution towards the development of diagnostic tools in neurodegenerative disease.