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Meet the team

Lab Director and Principal Investigator


Dr Brendan Rooney

B.A., M.Litt., PhD

Assistant Professor in the School of Psychology, University College Dublin and director of the UCD School of Psychology Media and Entertainment Psychology Lab. Brendan is also a founding member of the Psychological Society of Ireland’s Special Interest Group in Media, the Arts, and Cyberpsychology.

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Graduate Researchers


Lauren Christophers

BSc (Hons), PhD Candidate

Lauren is a PhD scholar and has been a member of the lab since 2016. Lauren is interested in the cognitive processes underlying the creation of "real" experiences in mediated entertainment and fiction. Her research uses empirical methods to explore the psychological experience of realism and how different types of realism respond to different cues in virtual reality.

Lauren received a BSc in Applied Psychology from IADT in 2015 and has since worked as a researcher on diverse projects throughout UCD on a range of topics e.g. assisted decision making in acute care settings, evaluation of early childhood interventions, co-research with young people with disabilities. Lauren is an active member of the School of Psychology as an occasional lecturer and member of the School’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee.  


David Hayes

B.A. International., MPsychSc., PhD Candidate

David joined the lab in 2016 and is currently completing his PhD in the School of Psychology, UCD. David’s primary research interests concern the intersection between psychology and video games and include topics such as player motivation, player engagement, and video game effects. David is an avid gamer and combines his passion for gaming and interest in the gaming industry with a broad knowledge of psychology and a high level of research expertise.


His PhD research focuses on developing and testing a comprehensive theoretical model of the psychology of the video gameplay experience. David has also gained considerable teaching experience and has delivered a series of lectures on video game effects to various groups of undergraduate and masters students; focusing largely on the research design issues and challenges in the media effects domain. Beyond video games, David research interests extend broadly to individuals’ engagement with media and technology. He has most recently conducted research funded by Enterprise Ireland to identify and examine the factors that make smartphone apps engaging.


Assim Kalouaz
BSc, MRes, MSc

Assim is a postgraduate student who joined the lab in 2021. After completing a Bachelor degree in Psychology, he has completed a Master's degree in 3D Interactive Technologies where he looked at virtual reality to study colour constancy and a Master's degree in Cognitive Science where he used VR as a support to explore spatial navigation skills in older adults. His research interests revolve around phenomenology, experiential, and affective design applied to virtual reality, He has joined the Media and Entertainment Psychology Lab in order to explore the dynamics of social cognition and multisensory processing inside virtual environments.

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Patrick Mulvaney
BSc (Hons) Computing, HDip Psychology, Masters Cognitive Science

Pat is currently enrolled in the cognitive science masters at UCD and working on the Mixed Reality Therapy project. He completed a degree in computer applications and has been an intern in the lab since 2017, researching diverse topics. Pat has varied research interests, with a particular passion for VR, counselling, existential, and social psychology. He writes punk music in his free time, but can't guarantee that any of it is good.


David Redmond

BA(Hons), MPsychSc, PhD Candidate

David is a PhD student on the SFI funded D-Real program  and is based at Dublin City University under the supervision of Professor Pamela Gallagher (DCU) and co-supervised by Dr Brendan Rooney. His research investigates the potential benefits of virtual and augmented reality for assistive technology users with a particular focus on psychosocial outcomes for amputees. David has been a member of the lab for the past 3 years and has worked as both a research assistant and student researcher in that time. David is a contributor to an ongoing group of projects in the lab that investigate the effects of exposure to VR and videogame characters on social cognition and stigma responses.

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Flaviano Santos

BSc(Hons), MPsychSc Candidate

Flaviano is currently working towards his Masters of Psychological Science at University College Dublin and holds a Government of Ireland International Education Scholarship (GOI-IES). He received a BSc (Hons) from the University of Fortaleza in Brazil and has a past research background with expertise in psychogeriatrics, elder abuse, and substance abuse. More recently, he collaborated with research on the psychosocial and financial impact of COVID-19 in Brazil. His Masters research is focused on the effects of manipulation of film close-up shots on social cognition. Flaviano’s research interests include social cognition, particularly the intersection between engagement with cultural products and social cognition processes, addictive behaviours, and neuropsychology. 

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Undergraduate Researchers, Research Assistants and Interns

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Jade Duffy

BSc (Hons) Candidate

Jade is a final year BSc Psychology student in UCD. She joined the lab in 2020 and has since assisted with several research projects investigating music's effects on pain. Jade is interested in transdisciplinary research with a particular passion for combining neuroscience, arts, and technology. Specifically, she is interested in higher-level cognitive processes such as attention, memory, and cognitive flexibility, how we measure them, and the role these processes play in shaping our global cognitive trajectories.

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Konstantina-Danai Karagkiozeli
BSc, MSc in Biological Applications & Technologies (Integrated Master degree)

Konstantina-Danai is an MSc biologist coming from Greece, with a strong interest in Behavioural Neuroscience. Her master thesis in Neurophysiology of Pain inspired her to combine Neurobiology with Experimental Psychology. So, in January 2021 she joined Media and Entertainment Lab, at UCD School of Psychology, for her post-graduate Erasmus+ internship. She is interested in answering fundamental questions with applications in everyday life through research, while at the same time she is deeply concerned about making science understandable to wider audiences (science communication). Except for UCD, she has done a research internship at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, on Neurobiology & Genetics of Social Behaviour.

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Aleksandra Milenović

Final year BSc Psychology student

Final Year BSc Psychology student who is currently running a thesis on the relationship between social cognition and features of visual graphic mediums or comics using an online experimental design. Interested in researching the reciprocal relationship between the digital mediums we consume (Youtube, Twitch) and our psychosocial well-being. Spends leisure time drawing and playing video games, hoping that her hobbies can actually help with the research. 

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David O'Rourke

BA (Hons), BSc (Hons) Candidate

David is a final year undergraduate psychology student in UCD. His current thesis project is looking to explore the low-level visual characteristics behind nature’s restorative benefits.  He has previously completed a degree in Arts and has also helped with research projects in other psychology laboratories in UCD. David is particularly interested in nature’s ability to restore health and well-being, colour preference and its effect on thought and emotion, Positive Psychology and Clinical Psychology.

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Chiara Zaccheo

Bachelor of Arts Degree in Geography and Environmental Studies

Chiara joined the lab on a part-time basis in September 2020. Chiara was part of the UCD School of Psychology in a professional administrative staff role from November 2017 -- February 2018 and her interest in the study developed then. She is currently a Senior Executive Assistant in the UCD Quality Office and is studying for the evening Diploma in Psychology course at Dublin Business School, and evening certificate course, Psychology: The Science of Behaviour and Mind, at Trinity College Dublin. Her research interests revolve around how positive change can be brought about for people who suffer from chronic pain due to neurological disorders using distraction methods of media and entertainment.

Postdoctoral Researchers and Adjunct


Dr John Francis Leader, also known as JFL, is a consulting psychologist and cognitive scientist who specialises in personal leadership, experiential learning and mixed reality therapy; assisting people in successfully navigating the physical, the virtual and the imaginary. John spends his time between training, consultancy and therapeutic work in private practice, and academic research—which he conducts from the Cognitive Science Programme and the Media & Entertainment Lab at the School of Psychology at University College Dublin where he is an Adjunct Research Fellow. By combining multimedia techniques with current psychological research, JFL’s work aims to make therapy more fun, immersive and effective—a type of theme park meets therapy experience.

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Dr Friehs is a cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in psychology and joined UCD as an Assistant Professor in 2020.  His main research interests include the modulation of action control using non-invasive brain stimulation and acute stress induction. This may entail for example, the study of the neurophysiological underpinnings of response inhibition and interference control in the prefrontal cortex. Furthermore, he is interested in human-computer interaction in the context of video games and how fundamental psychological processes translate to the gaming context. This may include for example the study of game design influences on game perception and performance as well as the study on how design elements can be used to foster adherence to (serious) games.

Lab Collaborators and Lab Alumni


Katalin Balint
BSc, BA, MSc, MA, PhD

Katalin is trained psychologist (BSc, MSc, PhD) and film scholar (BA, MA). Currently, she works as an assistant professor at the Communication Science department at the Free University Amsterdam. In her research, she employs an interdisciplinary approach integrating theories and empirical methods from psychology, film theory, and psychological theories of narratives. She focuses on topics such as (1) the social cognition processes in film viewers; (2) the psychology of cinematography, the effect of formal (audio-visual design) features on emotional and cognitive responses to cinematic narratives, empathy in particular;  (3) and viewers’ narrative experiences, in particular the subjective experience of narrative absorption, engagement with fictional characters, foregrounding and suspense structures in movies.


Dr Tom Burke

BSc(Hons), MPsychSc, PGradDip, PhD, DClinPsych, CPsycholPsSI

Tom joined the lab in 2017 while undertaking doctoral training in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsych) at University College Dublin. Tom is a Clinical Psychologist and Research Fellow with the Academic Unit of Neurology, Trinity College Dublin, and Department of Psychology at Beaumont Hospital. Tom’s research interests include cognitive and behavioural phenotyping in neuromuscular and neurodegenerative conditions e.g., Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), fractionation of cognitive processes, and functional mechanisms underlying this e.g., EEG, and the design/development/validation of tests. Specifically, Tom is interested in cognitive processes like social cognition, executive function, processing speed etc., and how we measure them e.g., paper-based tasks/Virtual Reality/computerised interfaces. 

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Caroline Chadwick

BA, MSc. Ph.D. Candidate 

I completed my Bachelors degree from Queens University, majoring in Political Studies, before moving to Ireland where I completed a Higher Diploma in Psychology at University College Dublin. As a student in the UCD Media and Entertainment Lab, I studied the effects of perceptual and conceptual cues on feelings of presence in a virtual environment and the applications of virtual reality as a neuropsychological assessment tool. After working as an Assistant Psychologist at Highfield Healthcare, I moved to Western University in London, Ontario to work with Dr. Ingrid Johnsrude as a Ph.D candidate in Clinical Science and Psychopathology. My current research examines functional brain restructuring in individuals with temporal lobe epilepsy and the effects of such changes on cognition and psychological wellbeing.


Dr. Gráinne Kirwan

BA, MSc, MLitt, PhD, CPsychol

Grainne is a chartered psychologist (British Psychological Society) and a lecturer in psychology in the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design, and Technology. She is also a committee member of the Irish Psychologists Registration Board, managed by CORU (Ireland's multi-profession health regulator < Her areas of interest include cybercrime, online health/support seeking, and the psychological applications of virtual reality. She has co-authored/co-edited several books in the areas of cyberpsychology and cybercrime

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Thomas Parsons
Director—iCenter for Affective Neurotechnologies (iCAN); Director—Computational Neuropsychology and Simulation (CNS) Laboratory; Professor, College of Information

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Thomas D. Parsons, PhD is Director of the iCenter for Affective Neurotechnologies (iCAN) at the University of North Texas (UNT). This multidisciplinary Center includes six labs from Psychology, Computer Science, Biomedical Engineering, Information Science, and Learning Technologies,. Dr. Parsons also directs the Computational Neuropsychology & Simulation (CNS) Lab at UNT. Work in the iCAN and CNS integrates computational social science, neuropsychology, psychophysiology, and simulation technologies for novel assessment, modeling, and training of neurocognitive, affective, and social processes. Dr Parsons is a leading scientist in this area and has been PI of 17 funded projects during his career and an investigator on an additional 13 funded projects (over $15 million in funding). In addition to his patents for the Matching System, U.S. Patent Nos. 2004/6735568; 2014/0180942 A1), he has invented and validated virtual reality-based assessments of attention; spatial abilities; memory; executive functions, and social cognition. He uses neural networks and machine learning to model mechanisms underlying reinforcement learning, social cognition, decision making, working memory, and inhibitory control. In addition to his five books, he has over 200 publications in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters. His contributions to neuropsychology were recognized when he received the 2013 National Academy of Neuropsychology Early Career Achievement award. In 2014, he was awarded Fellow status in the National Academy of Neuropsychology.


Dr Conall Tunney

BA. (Hons), Ph.D., Ph.D. (Clin. Psych.)

Dr Conall Tunney is a clinical psychologist working with children and adolescents with disabilities the Health Service Executive. As part of this work he carries out developmental and neuropsychological assessments of children with a wide variety of presentations. He also provides psychological intervention and therapy to young people and families experiencing distress associated with their disability or the disability of a family member. Dr Tunney completed a research PhD in the School of Psychology at UCD, with Professor Gary O’Reilly, as well as conducting research as part of the clinical psychology doctorate with Dr Brendan Rooney. In both of these research programs his work focused on how young people relate to technology; how it can affect their mental health and how it can be better used to offer mental health intervention. 

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Emily O' Leary

BA Psychology

Emily's research with the lab has looked at analgesia within music psychology, with a focus on the role of emotional and cognitive factors that play a role in pain-relief. She is particularly interested in role of new audio technologies and software in music listening interventions, and the way in which industry-led innovation in this area can be incorporated into music psychology practices. She is currently studying for an MSc in Music Technology.  

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Dr Nicola Fox Hamilton has an MSc and PhD in Cyberpsychology. Nicola is a lecturer in applied psychology and cyberpsychology across a number of programmes in the Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire (IADT). Her research has focused on communication through technology, particularly in the areas of online dating, relationships, and attraction. Nicola was a founding member of the Psychological Society of Ireland’s Special Interest Group in Media, the Arts, and Cyberpsychology.

Lab management

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