From a young age, I have always had an interest in sciences, in particular, biology. I have a keen interest in understating the functioning of the human body, with a particular fascination of the brain and its ability to react and adapt to varying stimuli. I am a firm believer in that the brain is too complex for us to fully understand all the functions it is capable of, but this will not stop us from continuing to explore its capabilities.
Originally from Bradford, I moved to Newcastle to pursue a degree in Biomedical sciences at Northumbria University. The degree provided me with an in-depth understanding on the functioning of the human body, down to a molecular level. It is during this degree that I got a first taste in understanding the brain in more detail, which only motivated me study it further. In my final year neurology project, I focused on the effects of different classifications of drugs on the brain and its functioning. It is during this project I started to understand the link between the heart and brain in more detail and how they communicate with one another.
This led me to complete a MSc Neuroinformatics at Newcastle University. This is where I developed my understanding of the brain in greater detail. I focused on computational modelling of the brain and understanding how the brain changes and adapts throughout our years of life. I also learned how our brains learn new information and how information processing and retrieval occurs. For my summer dissertation project, I managed to gain support and funding from Dr Marcus Kaiser, Newcastle University, in completing a project on ‘The effects of Ujjayi meditation on amygdala volume and the resting state functional connectivity of the brain’. Here I recruited participants to complete an eight-week Ujjayi meditation course with Jambo Yoga, where participants completed pre and post MRI and fMRI scans to understand the changes that occur in the brain.
This attracted interest from Dr Petia Sice, a leading researcher in systems and Complexity Thinking for Understanding Humans and Organisations. Our combined interest in using alternative approaches for health and complexity thinking lead to a formation of a PhD proposal and offer.
My PhD thesis title ‘The development and application of an integrative framework for the holistic evaluation of wellbeing’. It was identified that current methods for assessing mental health and wellbeing were lacking a holistic approach, as well as being one-dimensional, only using questionnaires. The newly developed framework adopts a holistic approach that uses both psychological evaluation using questionnaires and physiological evaluation using the latest technology in the way of Heart Rate Variability, a measure which helps understand the functioning of the autonomic nervous system. The framework was used to test the psychological and physiological effectiveness of a variety of interventions to understand what acute and longitudinal impacts it had on individuals. An overview of some of the interventions / alternative therapies evaluated can be seen here.
THE WELLBEING TEAM
Petia holds a PhD in Systems and Complexity Thinking for Understanding Humans and Organisations. She is passionate about interpreting and applying insights from complexity theory for facilitating positive transformation in individuals and organisations. Her research interests focus on exploring quintessential insights and synergies between quantum physics, systems and complexity sciences, interpersonal neurobiology and the arts, and how these may inform a new paradigm of thinking in wellbeing and lead to new applications of technology.
Dr Rauch is a neurobiologist. He examines the neural correlates of low intensity physical activity (based on natural movement principles) and biofeedback as a means of combatting ANS dysregulation to improve health and wellbeing. The same natural movement principles are also effective in improving performances on the sports ﬁeld and in the workplace. Two crucial aspects of ANS dysregulation that needs to be optimised are neutralizing excessive somatic sympathetic nerve activations (SNA) and enhancing vagal nerve activation of the heart and the viscera. Dr. Rauch’s recent research established that heart rate and HRV are good markers of SNA and vagal activity, respectively if the measurements are done under well controlled conditions.
Trauma Informed Care
A high profile , key business priority for the Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV)
The project focuses on reshaping the way in which mental health and learning disabilities services function. They currently heavily rely on the medical model that focuses on ‘what is wrong with you’ using a symptoms based approach, but the program aims to move services towards a person-centred approach that focuses on ‘what happened to you’ and viewing the individual as a whole. This approach is more suited as through research, we know the brain is built with layers of experience which impact functioning. Here, the framework developed in my PhD will be used for the evaluation which will be integrated into the NHS services.
My role includes leading on the research by developing and adding to the growing evidence base for using the trauma informed approach across different mental health and learning disability services. This unique holistic framework for the assessment of wellbeing developed in his PhD, his expertise in Heart Rate Variability and Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback has facilitated the unique approach to service users in understanding their needs, but more importantly, understanding the effectiveness of interventions on both their psychology and physiology of an individual.
HeartMath provide innovative technology and therapy techniques focused on improving wellbeing, personal development and resilience. Using Heart Rate Variability, users complete breathing sessions helping to gain autonomic nervous balance. Extensive research has evidenced that biofeedback technology can help improve stress, anxiety, depression, wellbeing, chronic heart diseases as well as many personal development applications.
Volunteering involves taking on responsibilities of providing first aid at events. It is essential to work as a team, adapt to different environments and able to recall and follow particular procedures for different treatments or events. It is vital to keep calm and have confidence to work independently and be confident in acquired skills
Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is a two-day interactive workshop in suicide first aid. ASIST teaches participants to recognise when someone may have thoughts of suicide and work with them to create a plan that will support their immediate safety.