Sam Clark

Research student profile

Research degree: PhD programme
Start date: 2024
Open Research and Contributor ID (ORCID): 0009-0006-1910-1997

Research summary

Project title: A neurostimulation investigation of the influence of affect intensity and affect lability on insight in problem solving

My project will investigate the influence of affect intensity (Larsen & Diener, 1985, 1987) and affect lability (Harvey et al., 1989) on insight problem solving performance and affective behaviour; while investigating neural sites, structures, and mechanism of associated cognitive and affective functions using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). A range of neural sites involved in creative thought demonstrate improve performance and function because of tDCS (Koizumi et al., 2020) and my research will further contribute to this.

I will replicate the research of Salvi et al, (2020), investigating the influence of individual difference affect traits on the positive effect of tDCS when applied the right anterior temporal lobe (Salvi et al, 2020). The second study would be a semi-replication the first study but with an additional mood induction procedure (MIP) to explore how mood mediates the predicted beneficial tDCS effect. My third study would investigate the manifestation and influence of affect intensity and lability traits in affective behaviour with arousal/valence scoring of affective images during tDCS of left and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (this element would also function as a MIP) before completing insight problem-solving tasks. My fourth study would be a reconfiguration of Study 3 but with the anodal tDCS on dlPFC being utilised during the CPS tasks (after a non-stimulated MIP).

During the MSc course I have become very interested in the topic of creativity. As a musician of 20 years writing and performing experience, I have frequently wondered where ideas come from and how are those new concepts available to us? Some often arriving without effort and apparently out of nowhere or sometimes as result of determined effort and laborious trial and error: I wanted to learn more. As a teacher with significant experience of teaching boys who have endured significant trauma or abuse that may display emotional reactivity, the barriers to efficient and cohesive thought and cognition have been apparent and sometimes brought acutely to my attention by classroom behaviour and aggression.

To me, the role of mood (and one’s experience and regulation of it) fits hand in hand with the study of creativity; but it also has far reaching implications for our understanding of the role of cortisol, its link to individuals’ and their mothers’ experience of birth and subsequent adaption, and then the subsequent establishing of how we construct our emotions and our day to day intraindividual variance of moods. This construction of both emotion and mood (as a generalised object independent expression) would re-enforce and habituate the categorisation and short hand second to second simulation that consciousness provides as our lens and translator of the world and people around us. I want to study how feelings and emotions mediate and interact our creativity and cognition.

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Research Supervisor: Philipp Ruhnau
Student: Sam Clark

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