The Psychology of Mental Health Group

The Psychology of Mental Health Group

This research group is coordinated by Dr Frances Maratos and aims to contribute to both the scientific understanding of mental disorders and the development of therapeutic interventions informed by this research. Members of the group utilise a wide variety of research methods including questionnaire measures, physiological measures, cognitive measures and neuroimaging techniques. Presently there is a strong emphasis on affective disorders including depression, dysphoria and anxiety. 

Examples of current projects include:

Neural correlates of compassionate and critical imagery

Part funded by the Compassionate Mind Foundation, the aim of this research is to explore neurophysiological systems involved in self-critical and self-compassionate thoughts using fMRI. This program of research builds upon recent investigations demonstrating that individuals vulnerable to depression tend to be self-critical and have difficulty with self-compassion (Gilbert & Irons, 2005). Collaborators include: Professor Paul Gilbert, Gina Rippon, Olivia Longe & Gaynor Davis (Aston University). For more information contact Dr Frances Maratos at

Example Publication:

Longe, O., Maratos, F.A., Gilbert, P., Evans, G., Volker,F., Rockliffe, H & Rippon G (2010). Having a word with yourself: Neural correlates of self-criticism and self-reassurance. Neuroimage, 49, 1849-1856

Physiological changes, compassion, and self-criticism

Paul Gilbert, Frances Maratos and colleagues are using various physiological measures to explore physiological changes underlying the behavioural and emotional changes seen in Compassion Focused Therapy. Compassion Focused Therapy is a therapy that teaches self-compassion/kindness and has been developed for people with high shame and self-criticism. Collaborators: Chris Barnes, David Glover, Chris Gillespie, Joana Duarte & Helen Rockcliffe. For more information contact Professor Paul Gilbert at or Dr Frances Maratos at

Processing of compassionate and critical facial expressions

Kirsten McEwan, Paul Gilbert and colleagues are developing facial stimuli displaying compassion, criticism and neutrality. The stimuli are being used in a series of studies including: a) exploring the relationship between attentional biases to facial stimuli and self-criticism and psychopathologies and b) using a computer game to re-train attentional biases to focus more on compassion rather than criticism as an intervention for psychopathologies (funded by the Leverhulme Trusts). Collaborators include: Frances Maratos, James Elander, Sigrid Lipka & Helen Rockliff. For more information contact Kirsten McEwan at

Example Publication:

McEwan,K. Gilbert,P., Dandeneau,S., Lipka, S., Maratos, F.A.., Paterson, K. & Baldwin, M. (under review) The effects of self-criticism on processing of compassionate and critical facial expressions

Processes of temporal attention in affective disorders

The aim of this research is to extend current understanding of the effects of dysphoria (subclinical depression) and anxiety upon attentional processes. In particular we are interested in the processing of emotional stimuli and whether dysphoric and/or anxious adults and/or children have problems disengaging attention from emotional stimuli. For more information contact Dr Frances A. Maratos or Lauren Kelly at

Strategic response processes in clinical assessment

The aim of this collaborative project is to examine the role of response biases and potential malingering during the psychological assessment of mental-health problems, chronic pain and memory deficits. We use a range of self-report measures and cognitive performance tasks to establish how strategic thinking and previous experience affect assessment results. This project has received support from a Leverhulme Visiting Research Fellowship to RD and an RIC University of Derby small project grant to SL. Collaborator: Ralf Dohrenbusch, clinical psychologist (Bonn University). For further information contact Sigrid Lipka at