Dr Tomasina Oh

Dr Tomasina Oh

Associate Professor - Dementia Care Programme Lead (Research)

Peninsula Medical School (Faculty of Health)

Associate Professor and Dementia Care Programme Lead (D-PACT)


PhD (Experimental Psychology), University of Cambridge 

MPhil (Linguistics), University of Cambridge

B.A. Hons (English Language & Linguistics), Universiti Sains Malaysia 

Professional membership

British Association of Applied Linguistics

British Psychological Society, Chartered Psychologist

Division for Teachers and Researchers in Psychology

Roles on external bodies

Lay member, HRA Cornwall & Plymouth Research Ethics Committee

Teaching interests

I have taught undergraduates and postgraduates in the following areas:

Psycholinguistics/Advanced Psycholinguistics

Child Language Acquisition

Introduction to the Neurocognition of Language 

Introductory Linguistics 

Linguistics Frameworks (for Speech & Language Pathology) 


Research interests

Early and previous research 
My research to date has focused on performance, in particular which mental processes and neural regions underlie proficient performance. More specifically, this research was interested in: 
  • the speech, language and communication (SLC) performance of monolinguals and multilinguals, 
  • the effect of brain disease, brain injury or atypical development on SLC performance, 
  • the light that SLC breakdown can shed on healthy cognitive and neural processes, and 
  • whether changes in SLC can help in early detection of diseases affecting the brain.

To answer such questions I studied both healthy and atypical populations, using a range of methods including behavioural experiments, neuropsychological tests and fMRI brain imaging techniques. My doctoral research focused on characterizing SLC impairments in schizophrenia and how cognitive decline influences performance. This work led to collaborations examining the effects of IQ on neural function, and how previously reported neural abnormalities might be the result of cognitive decline rather than disease.

My research then expanded to include the bilingual brain, using fMRI. Initially, I examined the role of the striatal and hippocampal systems underlying language function in monolingual young adults. This laid the foundation for the bilingual project (2005-8) investigating how age, proficiency and language learning mode affect second language (L2) performance and neural representation. A former PhD student’s thesis on cognitive and language switching in bilinguals relates to another interest I have about whether the mental exercise associated with being bilingual leads to a cognitive advantage, neuroprotection or both. In the future I hope to revisit questions related to my own doctoral work on schizophrenia: 
  • What can SLC impairments can tell us about language in the healthy brain? 
  • Are there SLC changes specific to different brain diseases (including those affecting mental health) which can help us detect these diseases earlier? 
Such work requires reliable assessment of SLC performance in both monolingual and bilingual populations. I am currently supervising a PhD student who is working on a better way to assess and identify children with Developmental Language Disorder.

My interest in performance extends beyond language function too. Previous and current collaborations include projects examining: (1) the striatal and hippocampal systems underlying non-language tasks in the ageing brain, and (2) the effects of mental vs. physical exercise on cognition, and how these different kinds of exercise augment performance.

Current research (2019 onwards) 
My current role has led me into the research field of complex interventions in health. The DPACT project I am leading and managing aims to examine whether a dementia support worker based in primary care can be not only cost-effective but also effective at improving physical healthcare, mental wellbeing and health-related quality of life for people with dementia and their carers. In this feasibility stage of the project we are developing and testing the intervention (presence of a support worker vs. treatment as usual) and addressing questions relevant to the trial science, i.e. determining appropriate and effective recruitment procedures for people with dementia (including under-served individuals), effective inclusion and exclusion criteria and accurate outcome measures.

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

Lim Li Koon, Reading processes in biscriptal children in Singapore

Masnidah Masnawi, Imageability and verb-noun naming in Aphasia: Can the effect of grammatical class be reduced to differences in imageability?

Philina Ng, Fusiform gyrus: Investigation of visual word recognition in the bilingual brain

Seng Su Lin, Bilingual language control and switching


Waine, H. Functional grammatical development in children with Developmental Language Disorder

Grants & contracts

2012 – 2015 Managing Two Languages: Language Control in Healthy Vs. Brain Damaged Bilinguals (PI) 

2008 – 2009 The Role Of Declarative And Procedural Memory In Bilingual Speakers (PI)

2006 – 2008 Adult Reading Test to Estimate the Pre-Morbid IQ of Patients with Schizophrenia (Co-PI)

2005 – 2008 Language in the Bilingual Brain: Comparing Healthy and Aphasic Chinese-English Bilinguals (PI)

Key publications


McKenna, PJ. and TM Oh. (2005). Schizophrenic Speech: Making Sense of Bathroots and Ponds that Fall in Doorways. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Key publications are highlighted


Oh TM., Graham S., Ng P., Yeh IB, Chan BPL and Edwards AM (2019). Age and Proficiency in the Bilingual Brain Revisited: Activation Patterns Across Different L2-Learner Types. Front. Commun. 4:39. doi: 10.3389/fcomm.2019.00039

Graham, S., Oh, TM., Manning, V., Kang, S., Yeh, I.B. & McKenna, P. (2019). Brain activity differences between schizophrenia patients and healthy controls – Schizophrenia or IQ related? European Science Journal 15 (22).

Oh, TM., KL Tan, P Ng, IB Yeh & S Graham. (2011) “The Past Tense Debate: Is Phonological Complexity the Key to the Puzzle?” NeuroImage, 57, 271-280. 

Graham, S., E Phua, CS Soon, TM Oh, C Au, B Shuter, SC Wang and BY Ing, (2009). "Role of medial cortical, hippocampal and striatal interactions during cognitive set-shifting". NeuroImage, 45: 1359-67. 

Pomarol-Clotet, E., TM Oh, K Laws and PJ McKenna. (2008). Semantic Priming in Schizophrenia: A Meta-Analysis. British Journal of Psychiatry. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 192: 92-97. 

Kircher, TJ., TM Oh, MJ Brammer, and PK McGuire. (2005). Neural correlates of syntax production in schizophrenia. British Journal of Psychiatry, 186: 209-214

Oh, TM. (2003). “Language abnormalities in schizophrenia: A Linguist’s Perspective”. In Hajar A. Rahim and Shakila A. Manan (eds.) Issues in Linguistics and English Language Teaching. USM Press: Penang.

Oh, TM., RA McCarthy, & PJ McKenna. (2002). Is there a schizophasia? A study applying the single case approach to formal thought disorder in schizophrenia. Neurocase, 8(3):233-44. 

Nolan, F. & TM Oh. (1996). "Identical twins, different voices". Forensic Linguistics 3 (1): 39-49.

Graham S, Oh TM, Manning V, Jiang J, Yeh IB, Kang S & McKenna PJ 2019 'Teasing Apart the Impact of Illness and IQ on Functional Neuroimaging Findings in Schizophrenia' European Scientific Journal , DOI Open access
Oh TM, Graham S, Ng P, Yeh IB, Chan BPL & Edwards AM 2019 'Age and Proficiency in the Bilingual Brain Revisited: Activation Patterns Across Different L2-Learner Types' Frontiers in Communication 4, , DOI Open access

Oh, TM. (2014). “The Declarative Procedural Model of Language: A new framework for studying the non-inflecting languages of Southeast Asia?” In Heather Winskel and Prakash Paddakannaya (eds.) South and Southeast Asian Psycholinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Additional information

Previous universities worked at

Plymouth Marjon University (Jan 2016 - May 2019)

National University of Singapore (May 2002 - Dec 2015)

Universiti Sains Malaysia (July 1999 - Apr 2002)

Previous roles

Associate Dean for Research (Plymouth Marjon University)

Head of Department (English & Language Sciences, Plymouth Marjon Unversity)

Chair of University Research Ethics (Plymouth Marjon University)

Graduate Chair (Department of English Language & Literature, National University of Singaopre)

Chair of Department Research Ethics (Department of English Language & Literature, National University of Singapore)