Professor Rod I Nicolson

photograph of Prof. Rod I Nicolson

Department of Psychology
The University of Sheffield
Sheffield S10 2TP, UK

Tel: (+44) 0114 222 6546
Fax: (+44) 0114 276 6515
Room: 1-12

Degrees and Career

After a first degree in mathematics at the University of Cambridge, I took an M.Sc. in Experimental Psychology at the University of Sussex. Following my PhD on learning at the University of Cambridge I was offered a lectureship at the University of Sheffield, where I have stayed ever since. My lifelong interest is in learning, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to make contributions both to research and practice. I was awarded a Personal Chair in 1996. Following a much appreciated year's Senior Fellowship awarded by the Royal Society / Leverhulme Trust, I was Head of Psychology for four years, completing the extended term of office in August 2004. I also completed an MBA in strategic planning in 2005. I was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Pure Science in 2005.

Research Interests

My interests are in dyslexia and developmental learning disabilities, and these started in the late 1980s, when (with Angela Fawcett) I started investigating learning processes in dyslexia. This led to our automatisation deficit hypothesis (1990) – a `cognitive level´ framework that demonstrated that dyslexic people have difficulty in automatising a range of skills, including skills completely outside the literacy domain. We followed this five years later by our cerebellar deficit hypothesis, a `brain level´ hypothesis that attributed the automaticity problems to inefficient cerebellar function, This was followed six years later by our `ontogenetic causal chain´ model that provided a developmental model of how the symptoms arise. This framework was broadened five years later by our `Specific Procedural Leaning Difficulties´ framework that investigates dyslexia in terms of the neural systems involved, and manages to provide a framework which facilitates discussion of all the developmental disorders within a coherent framework. I have published over 100 articles, book chapters and software systems. Recent screening tests (with A. Fawcett) include the Pre-school Screening Test, the Dyslexia Early Screening Test, the Dyslexia Screening Test and the Dyslexia Adult Screening Test, and Ready to Learn, all published by the Psychological Corporation. The research is now highly influential internationally. A key characteristic of the inter-disciplinary research is that it highlights the value of brain-based diagnostic techniques to the understanding and treatment of learning disorders.

Please see the Sheffield Cognitive Development Group page

Current Research Funding

2013      EU FP7-PEOPLE-2012-IEF. £100K. Thriving in the workplace - supporting people at the age of 55 years and over in satisfying and productive work. EU Grant to S. Taneva. I was co-PI with Prof John Arnold on the proposal

2012      Business Advantage £500K. Grant from HEFCE to the joint Sheffield Hallam University / University of Sheffield  team. I was a co-PI with Prof. John Cullen on the grant proposal.

2011      SAMS/UKCES/ESRC Management and Business Development Fellowship. £60K. Organisational Capital Development. Written jointly with Prof. John Arnold (IWP).

Recent Research Funding

2011a     Dept of Work and Pensions (£30K). With Dr. Pauline Dibben and Prof. Geoff Wood (Management School). “Rapid Evidence Review: Quantifying the effectiveness of interventions to people with common health conditions to stay in or return to work”.

2011b     HEFCE via Business Advantage (c£30K). Funds for development and delivery of the Sheffield City Region Leaders Programme, using my Video Supported Active Learning system.

2010       HEFCE via Innovation Leaders (c£60K). Secondment to co-direct the Innovation Leaders Programme

2008       Sheffield Hospitals Charitable Trust (£30K). Early cognitive development in full-term and premature infants. PIs J. Herbert (Psychology) and E. Whitby (Radiology). Co-applicant.

Activities and Distinctions

  • Royal Society / Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship (1998/9).
  • Executive Editor: Dyslexia (1994 to the present)
  • Senior Examiner (Psychology) ESRC Postgraduate Studentship competition 2004, 2005; ESRC PGT Accreditation Committtee 2005; ESRC PGR Studentship Moderating Panel 2006.
  • Recent Invited Talks: The Cerebellum, Reading and Learning. Oxford Autumn School in Cognitive Neuroscience. Oxford University, 2005; : The role of the cerebellum. International Neuropsychological Association. Greece, 2004; Learning, the cerebellum and dyslexia. Joint International Symposium on Dyslexia. Kobe, Japan, 2004. Keynote: BDA Sixth International conference. Warwick, March 2004.
  • Conference Chair. British Dyslexia Association 5th International Conference: ‘Dyslexia at the Start of the New Millennium’ (York, 2001); Conference Organising Committee. British Dyslexia Association 6th International Conference: (Warwick, 2004)
  • My research has been covered in the Times, Sunday Times, Guardian, Daily Mail, Yorkshire Post, Daily Express, local papers, and magazines, as well as on radio and TV. In addition to media coverage for the theoretical dyslexia research, there is extensive and rather heated media coverage of applied aspects of the research.

Postgraduate Students

Sarah Agahi (Management)
Amna Almazi
Aisha Benomir
Christian Beyle Sandoval
Zoe Gallant
Sally Mumford (Management)


A list of key publications can be found below.  For a full list of publications please click here

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