Tess Langfield has won a USD$3000 award from the Health and Behaviour International Collaboration (HBIC) to investigate drinking behaviour using psychophysiological measures. Tess is an MRC-Sackler funded Ph.D. student supervised by Professor Theresa Marteau at the Behaviour and Health Research Unit, University of Cambridge. She was sponsored by the International Behavioural Trials Network for this award.
The award enabled Tess to travel to Australia to conduct a novel experiment using facial electromyography to measure activity in a specific facial muscle called the orbicularis oris, during sipping from glasses of different shapes. Tess visited Macquarie University, Sydney, to work with Dr Philippe Gilchrist and A/Prof Melissa Norberg on the project, which was conducted in a specialist lab at Macquarie. This project builds on her Ph.D. research, which investigates the impact of glass shape on drinking behaviours for soft drinks.
There were four other winners of the HBIC award in 2019, which was set up to enable researchers to visit an international laboratory or research group under the guidance of an identified international mentor.
Tess spoke to Lucy Lloyd at the Primary Care Unit, Cambridge, for this article.
Tess, why did you apply for the Health and Behaviour International Collaborative Award?
I wanted to conduct research with a collaborator based in Sydney, Australia (Dr Philippe Gilchrist, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Psychology, Macquarie University). Philippe informed me that he had access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment (including a “bar laboratory” complete with a BIOPAC machine for measuring physiological responses), and would be happy to act as a mentor, if I were able to visit.
How did the ‘international mentor’ requirement for the award work?
I had to have an international mentor to be eligible for the award. Luckily I’d already met Philippe when he was a JRF here in Cambridge, so that made the process somewhat easier. I think the mentor requirement relates to the collaborative component of the award: it seeks to facilitate an international collaboration between researchers who are based in different countries. This is why you can’t use the award to support a trip to a conference, for example.
Could you tell us about the experiment you conducted at Macquarie?
My PhD investigates the impact of glass shape on drinking behaviour. Thus far I’ve conducted laboratory experiments measuring consumption of soft drinks from glasses of different shapes. We’ve found evidence that glass shape influences drinking speed, such as the evidence presented in this paper: Langfield et al,. Impact of glass shape on time taken to drink a soft drink: A laboratory-based experiment 27 August 2018, published in PLOS ONE. We have also found that glass shape affects drinking ‘trajectory’ and the amount consumed.
The experiment I conducted at Macquarie sought to explore a potential mechanism driving those effects: that glass shape influences ’embouchure’ (how pursed the lips are), which may in turn influence amount consumed. What this meant in real terms was attaching facial electrodes to willing participants and measuring the activation of their lip muscles during sipping from different glasses, using facial electromyography (EMG). So it was a nice ‘proof of concept’ study to tie together some of my previous findings.
How did you make the most of your trip?
I was away for nearly 5 weeks – though once you account for travel time and jet lag (not to be underestimated!), I had just over 4 weeks as a visiting scholar.
It was just about the right amount of time for this project; I managed to finish testing all the participants I needed for the experiment (N = 40), and squeezed in giving two talks (a lunchtime seminar and one at the CamSoc NSW alumni society). I’m glad I had these opportunities to talk about my research as I got some helpful feedback and comments, which will help me when I come to writing up my thesis.
I should also say that although the trip lasted just over a month, preparations for the trip began months before – and right up until I left. I needed to write study protocols and gain ethical approval from both Cambridge and Macquarie to run the study, apply for ‘visiting scholar’ status, write visa applications, and so on. I am grateful for the help I received from Theresa Marteau, Saphsa Codling, and other members of my research group in Cambridge, the Behaviour and Health Research Group, as they were instrumental in helping me prepare for the trip!
How has the visit to Macquarie supported your research programme?
The visit enabled me to conduct another experiment, directly relating to my PhD research, so it’s another chapter for my thesis. I’m looking forward to analysing the data and piecing it all together!
Find out more
Learn more about Tess Langfield
Queries: Lucy Lloyd, Communications Manager, Primary Care Unit