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A year in review: A round-up of our activities here in SASHLab over the academic year 2020/21!

by Crea Hickson

As the current academic year comes to an end it is a great time to reflect on the last 12 months. It has been a challenging year, but we are taking this moment to look back on some of the achievements of our lab members during this time. All of us have been working from home, and indeed many of us have taken to remote parts of Ireland to do so! As we are now dotted around the country we have included some photos from our current workspaces to bring a smile to your face during these difficulties times – but also to encourage you to visit our lab here in beautiful Ireland at some stage! Below is a taste of the interesting and inspiring work carried out at SASHLab every year.


New Graduate Alert!

In December 2020, Grace successfully defended her PhD Thesis entitled ‘The Role of Attachment and Social Support for the Psychological and Physiological Health of Adolescents and Young Adults’ which was supervised by Prof. Stephen Gallagher and Dr Ann-Marie Creaven. Her Viva Voca was chaired by our own Dr Eric Igou, from the Department of Psychology in UL, and her Thesis was examined by two external examiners Prof. Anna Whittaker (Stirling) and Dr. Samantha Dockray (UCC). At the time of her Viva, her first two thesis studies were already published in Stress and Health and Psychophysiology (which you can find here and here) and shortly after her Viva, the third and final study was published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology which can be found here.

New Pastures!

Siobhán G and Grace moved from their teaching posts in the Department, and took up new positions in the Department in February of this year. They are now working as part of a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant awarded to Prof Orla Muldoon, examining social identity, trauma, and health. However, they will thankfully be staying on as part of SASHLab!

Funding Success!

Ann-Marie was awarded an Irish Research Council New Foundations grant for ELSIE - Exploring Loneliness and Social Isolation in Emerging adulthood - a collaboration with Follow our ELSIE project page for more! (Link to this page here)

Siobhán G applied for a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Individual Fellowship to travel to Baylor University in the USA to work with our collaborator Dr Annie Ginty, and has scored highly - she is now on the waitlist for this prestigious award and will be given a Marie Curie Seal of Excellence for her application. Fingers crossed!

Teaching Success!

Grace McMahon was awarded a Teaching Hero Award which was announced at the Student Achievement Awards Ireland event in April 2021. The Teaching Hero Awards are Ireland’s only national, student-led awards for all those who teach in higher education and was organised by the National Teaching Forum and the Union of Students in Ireland.


March 2021 saw one example of the international impact of SASHLab research; a study published in American Psychological Association’s Health Psychology journal arising directly from “a call to research” published by SASHLab member, Dr Siobhán Howard, along with colleagues in NUI Galway and Shaanxi Normal University, China. Manigault et al.’s (2021) paper in Health Psychology arose directly from a previous review by Hughes, Lü, and Howard (2018) outlining the importance of examining how people adapt to stress and its implications for disease processes; examination of cardiovascular stress-response adaptation. Dr Howard and colleagues have been investigating the importance of cardiovascular stress-response adaptation as an important mechanism that ultimately predicts disease development. In the review, Dr Howard and colleagues called on researchers to examine previously collected data that allowed scrutiny of how individuals habituated to recurrent stress to add to the growing evidence that patterns of cardiovascular stress-response adaptation are particularly revealing in detailing psychosocial moderators of disease processes. Manigault et al. (2021) answered this call and published a secondary analysis of data they had collected previously. Their results showed that a stress reduction intervention that increased perceived control over thoughts led to greater stress-response habituation to the stressor. More details can be found on both papers here and here.

Invited Talks

In December, Ann-Marie gave a talk at the BPS Psychobiology Section annual meeting titled "For Better or for Worse: The Impact of Social Connections on Physiology".

In April, Siobhán G gave a virtual talk about her research on emotion regulation and cardiovascular responses to stress at the Self-Regulation, Emotion, and Attention Lab, in Reading University (UK) and in June, she gave a talk about her research to members of CoRPS (the Center of Research on Psychological and Somatic disorders) at Tilburg University (Netherlands), pictured right. These were great opportunities to connect with other emotion regulation and psychophysiology researchers!

We were also delighted to welcome Dr Stefanie Duijndam (virtually) to SASHLab to talk about her work to date on social inhibition and physiological responses to stress (pictured below). It proved to be a fruitful discussion that we hope to continue one day face-to-face!

Contribution to the Field

Ann-Marie, Páraic, and Stephen were part of the scientific committee for this year's Psychology, Health and Medicine Conference #PHM2021.

Siobhán and Aisling were judges at this year’s 42nd All-Ireland Student Congress held virtually by UCC. This event is a great way for Psychology students (undergraduate and postgraduate) to showcase their research! Well done to a fabulous organising committee and presenters for an engaging conference!

Ann-Marie also hosted a National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Seminar on team approaches to undergraduate project supervision. Our own Adam O'Riordan was one of the speakers. Watch the seminar recording: here and find the seminar preprint here: here

Ann-Marie spoke regularly about stress and coping over the past year on RTE Radio 1 show, Today with Claire Byrne. Listen back to Ann-Marie share her expertise on social support here: here, or to the discussion about trauma in frontline workers: here. This discussion was informed by the research conducted by our colleagues Professor Donal Fortune, Dr Elaine Kinsella, and Dr Rachel Sumner

Tracey had the opportunity to peer review, which she found to be very beneficial.

Dr Stephen Gallagher published studies on caring during the Covid-19 pandemic. He summarised his work in a blog which can be found on our SASH Lab website here.

A special thanks to…

A special thanks to Kevin Casey who spent his co-op with us over the last six months, and to all the research interns who worked with Grace and Siobhán G since last October as part of the Dept of Psychology VIP-R programme: Ailbhe Dempsey, Amy Lennon, Chloe Looney, Crea Hickson, Hannah Knittle, Jade Daly, Megan Carroll, Michelle McLaughlin, Saoirse Warren, & Steven O’Brien. Thank you for all your hard work over the year – we hope to see you back with us some day!

Some views from our work-from-home locations. While some of us are living and working in Limerick remotely, others are spread out around Ireland, for example Clare, Kerry, Kilkenny, Mayo, & Tipperary!

Selected Conference Presentations

18th Annual Psychology, Health and Medicine Conference (PHM), online via UCC (May, 2021).

The 18th Annual Psychology Health and Medicine Conference was jointly hosted by the Schools of Public Health and Applied Psychology in University College Cork. This year’s theme was “Perspectives and pathways to improving the research and application of health psychology”. We had excellent representation from SASHLab again this year, with oral and poster presentations….It was an excellent conference, with some inspiring keynotes and presentation!

Emma Kirwan presented a poster on her PhD research "Loneliness in young adulthood: a protocol for a scoping review of the quantitative and qualitative literature. (Online Poster: Collaborators: O’Súilleabháin, P., Burns, A., McMahon, J., Summerville, S., Creaven, A-M.

Ciara Price presented on her systematic review “A Systematic review of religiosity, spirituality, and cardiovascular reactions to acute psychological stress”.

Aisling Costello presented on her systematic review “Defining cardiovascular recovery from acute psychological stress: A systematic review”.

Adam O’Riordan gave an oral presentation on his latest study, a systematic review of blunted reactivity: “Blunted cardiovascular reactivity to acute psychological stress: A systematic review”.

Tracy Keogh presented on one of her laboratory studies “Depression and blunted cardiovascular reactivity to acute psychological stress: early life adversity as a moderator”. This paper has been published, for a quick synopsis see this blog post.

Grace McMahon gave an oral presentation on her PhD research “Cardiovascular reactivity to acute stress: attachment styles and invisible stranger support”.

Siobhán Griffin gave an oral presentation about her latest study, and first study of her postdoc, about “Affiliation with new group memberships formed after an Acquired Brain Injury predicts post-traumatic growth prospectively” (co-authors: Elaine Kinsella, Daragh Bradshaw, Grace McMahon, Ali Nightingale, Donal Fortune, and Orla Muldoon).

13th Annual Health Preconference at the 22nd Annual Convention of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPS), Online Conference (February 2021).

Siobhán G presented a poster on a laboratory study where she manipulated reappraisal: “Reappraisal as a strategy to cope with recurrent stress: Implications for performance and cardiovascular responding to stress”. This paper has been published open-access, for a quick synopsis see this blog post.

60th Annual Meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research, Vancouver, Canada (moved online; October, 2020)

Siobhán G presented a poster about an online study she conducted examining perceived stress and emotion regulation “Emotion regulation, perceived stress, and health” at the 60th Annual Meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research.

Selected Publications

Since January 2021

Gallagher, S., Creaven, A-M., Howard, S., Ginty, A. T., & Whittaker, A. C. (in press). Gratitude, social support and cardiovascular reactivity to acute psychological stress. Biological Psychology. [Q2, IF: 2.627].

Griffin, S. M., & Howard, S. (2021). Instructed reappraisal and cardiovascular adaption to recurrent stress. Psychophysiology, doi: 10.1111/psyp.13783. [Q1, IF: 3.378].

Keogh, T. M., Howard, S., O’Riordan, A., & Gallagher, S. (2021). Motivational orientation mediates the association between depression and cardiovascular reactivity to acute psychological stress. Psychophysiology, 58(2), e13732.

McMahon, G., Creaven, A. M., & Gallagher, S. (2021). Cardiovascular reactivity to acute stress: Attachment styles and invisible stranger support. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 164, 121-129.

Tyra, A. T., Griffin, S. M., Fergus, T. A., & Ginty, A. T. (2021). Individual differences in emotion regulation prospectively predict COVID-19 posttraumatic stress symptoms. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 81. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2021.102411.


Coyle, D. K. T., Howard, S., Bibbey, A., Gallagher, S. Whittaker, A. C., Creaven, A-M. (2020). Personality and physiological reactions to acute psychological stress in the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 148, 67-74. [Q2, IF: = 2.407].

Creaven, A. M., Higgins, N. M., Ginty, A. T., & Gallagher, S. (2020). Social support, social participation, and cardiovascular reactivity to stress in the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study. Biological Psychology, 155, 107921.

Gallagher, S., O’Sullivan, L., Hughes, Z., & O’Connell, B. H. (2020). Building Resources in Caregivers: Feasibility of a Brief Writing Intervention to Increase Benefit Finding in Caregivers. Applied Psychology: Health and Well‐Being, 12(2), 513-531.

Gallagher, S., Solano, A. C., & Liporace, M. F. (2020). State, but not trait gratitude is associated with cardiovascular responses to acute psychological stress. Physiology & behavior, 221, 112896.

Gallagher, S., Bennett, K. M., & Roper, L. (2020). Loneliness and depression in patients with cancer during COVID-19. Journal of psychosocial oncology, 1-7.

Gallagher, S., & Wetherell, M. A. (2020). Risk of depression in family caregivers: unintended consequence of COVID-19. BJPsych open, 6(6).

Ginty, A. T., Tyra, A. T., Young, D. A., John-Henderson, N. A., Gallagher, S., & Tsang, J. A. C. (2020). State gratitude is associated with lower cardiovascular responses to acute psychological stress: A replication and extension. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 158, 238-247.

Griffin, S. M., & Howard, S. (2020). Establishing the validity of a novel passive stress task. Psychophysiology, e13555. [Q1, IF: 3.378].

Howard, S., Fitzgerald, G., & Gallagher, S. (2020). Cardiovascular stress reactions in recent- and long-retired rugby players when watching a game. Physiology & Behavior, 219, 112832.. [Q2, IF: 2.635].

McMahon, G., Creaven, A. M., & Gallagher, S. (2020). Stressful life events and adolescent well‐being: The role of parent and peer relationships. Stress and Health, 36(3), 299-310.

McMahon, G., Creaven, A. M., & Gallagher, S. (2020). Perceived social support mediates the association between attachment and cardiovascular reactivity in young adults. Psychophysiology, 57(3), e13496.

O’Riordan, A., Howard, S., Brown, E., & Gallagher, S. (2020). Type D personality and cardiovascular reactivity to acute stress: The mediating effects of social support and negative social relationships. Psychophysiology, 57, e13660. [Q1, IF: 3.378].

O’Riordan, A., Howard, S., & Gallagher, S. (2020). Type D personality and life event stress: The mediating effects of social support and negative social relationships. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 33, 452-465. [Q2, IF: 1.981].

O’Reilly, P., Kennedy, C., Meskell, P., Coffey, A., Dore, L., Howard, S., Scanlon, C., Wilson, D., Whelan, B., & Ryan, S. (2020). The psychological impact of Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN) on patients’ lives: A critically appraised topic. British Journal of Dermatology, 183, 452-461. [Q1, IF: 6.714]

Sumner, R. C., Bennett, R., Creaven, A. M., & Gallagher, S. (2020). Unemployment, employment precarity, and inflammation. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 83, 303-308.


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