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Karen Mansfield


Senior Postdoctoral Researcher

I am a senior postdoctoral researcher interested in understanding the association between mental health (or wellbeing), motivation and learning. I recently joined the Oxford Mindfulness Research Centre, where I am currently working on analyses of data from the MYRIAD trial, investigating school pupils' developmental trajectories of self-reported cognitive and mental health before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much of my recent work has focused on considerations around research methodology and psychometrics, especially the challenges associated with adolescent mental health and wellbeing research. Together with Mina Fazel, I have developed the OxWell Student Survey, working closely with schools, local authority and clinical commissioning group partners. I have also worked with the Informatics and Digital Health theme at Oxford Health's NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, which supports translational data science, aligning with the Digital Strategy at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.

The OxWell survey aims to gain insight into a broad range of risk and protective factors associated with children and adolescents' wellbeing, with the potential to inform school- and local-authority based interventions. OxWell gathers responses to questions around mental health, wellbeing and lifestyle factors, including social and behavioural risk, and makes tailored summaries of results available to participating schools and stakeholders. We have used analyses of responses collected from pupils during the first UK lockdown to investigate which pupils were most at risk of poor mental health and a deterioration to their wellbeing (Mansfield, Newby et al., 2021), and are integrating other sources of data from the school census to investigate the role of school and environmental factors.

Understanding how to protect mental health can also be informed by analysis of large-scale administrative data, such as the routinely collected data held by the Department for Education and NHS Digital. I have worked with researchers, stakeholders, a Young Person's Advisory Group, and used the OxWell survey data to investigate the effectiveness of multiple methods to link large-scale administrative datasets relevant to the mental health of the adolescent population, at the same time as preserving the privacy of the individuals who provided the data.

I have also worked on other research projects adopted by Oxford Health BRC's Informatics and Digital Health theme. For the EMOTIVE project, I have worked with Kate Saunders, Terry Lyons, Catherine Harmer and Chris Hinds to develop the ethical protocol and data management plan for the collection, storage, de-identification and analysis of high-dimensional digital data to measure mood and emotions, using both custom-designed experimental tasks and remote online data collection (digital phenotyping).

Before I joined the Department of Psychiatry, my PhD research (Tilburg University, The Netherlands) and previous postdoctoral research (Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford) focused on the neural mechanisms of cognitive control and adaptive learning, as well as engagement and motivation. My research methods included electrophysiological data (ERPs and spectral analysis), intelligence testing, cognitive training and non-invasive electrical stimulation (tES).

Recent publications

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