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Nothing happens until a neuron fires

Dr Derek Larkin

In the Department of Psychology, our lecturers are experts in what they teach. They are known in the field for their research and contributions to their particular area of focus – and they bring all of that knowledge into the classroom, so that you can learn about specialist topics throughout each year of your degree.

An image of an illustrated multi-coloured brain.

Dr Derek Larkin, one of our Senior Lecturers, specialises his research in the area of Clinical and Abnormal Psychology. In 2010, Derek was awarded the prestigious student-led staff award for his teaching, in recognition of his ability to share his specialist knowledge in an enthusiastic and fascinating way.

We caught up with Derek to find out more about his area of expertise, and how he brings knowledge from his research into the classroom to share with our students.

An image of a person hooking up neurological sensors toq another person.
Electroencephalogram (EEG) lab in the Psychology department at Edge Hill

“Clinical psychology is the branch of Psychology concerned with the assessment and treatment of mental illness, abnormal behaviour, and psychiatric problems. What interests me is that this field integrates the science of Psychology with the treatment of complex human problems. When mental health professionals diagnose patients with mental health conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, or eating disorders – they make a decision about their treatment based on their knowledge of clinical psychology. It is an exciting career choice for people who are looking to work in a challenging and rewarding field. Students tend to thoroughly enjoy this topic and are always interested to find out more. It’s an incredibly popular module.”

“The research I do in this area feeds in to the Clinical and Abnormal Psychology module, which students can choose in their final year. I conduct research on topics of obesity, and cancer, linked by a fascination of how chronic health conditions like these affect an individual’s psychological wellbeing. I’ve had a long career in clinical psychology research, and I find it very rewarding to be able to bring this research and specialist knowledge to my teaching at Edge Hill.”

Derek’s module, Clinical and Abnormal Psychology, is one of the optional modules on our Psychology programmes. In this module, students evaluate and critically explore the medical model of mental illnesses, such as Schizophrenia, Mood Disorders, Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa. This optional module is the most popular choice for students year on year.

An image of a transcranial magnetic simulation lab at Edge Hill
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) lab in the Psychology department at Edge Hill

“When I first joined Edge Hill in 2007, clinical psychology was not being taught in the department, and I recognised there was a gap here, a niche, that we could be the front runners in. My idea was to launch a module that taught clinical psychology from a medical model. Since its launch, my Clinical and Abnormal Psychology module has become very popular with Psychology students.”

“Clinical psychology offers very promising career prospects, especially for those who aspire to go on to further study, so when you pair this with how fascinating the students find the topic, that gives a bit of an insight into why almost 100 students apply for the module each year.”

“Nothing happens until a neuron fires. That’s what I always tell my students when they begin to learn about biological psychology. Neurons are specialized cells evolved to transmit information to other nerve cells, muscle, or gland cells, and are the catalyst for everything, literally everything, that we do.”

“In this module, we ask questions like ‘What motivates us?’ and ‘What actually happens to allow me to move?’. We learn about this by mapping the central nervous system to human behaviour – exploring what processes happen inside the brain to allow human beings to complete actions. It’s a very interesting topic, based on scientific fact, and students always find it a little bit mind-blowing!”