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
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
2021 cohort, Foundation Future Leaders Programme (Foundation for Science and Technology)
I have taught undergraduates and postgraduates in the following areas:
Child Language Acquisition
Introduction to the Neurocognition of Language
Linguistics Frameworks (for Speech & Language Pathology)
I began my research career examining the speech, language and communication (SLC) of individuals with schizophrenia. My doctoral research characterised SLC impairments in schizophrenia patients with and without formal thought disorder to determine which impairments were specific to formal thought disorder, which were a feature of schizophrenia in general and which were simply a reflection of generalised cognitive decline (Oh et al., 2002; McKenna & Oh, 2005; Kircher, Oh, et al., 2005; Pomarol-Clotet, Oh, et al., 2008). This work led to collaborations examining neural abnormalities in schizophrenia, in particular which were more specific to a schizophrenia diagnosis vs. to generalised effects of IQ deficits, as seen in all kinds of patients with cognitive issues (Graham, Oh, et al., 2019).
Moving back to Southeast Asia from England after my PhD created challenges for the research I had been conducting up to this point. No longer was my research population made up of monolinguals whose first language was English - instead I was working with individuals who were at least bilingual and for whom English was not a first language or who spoke a different variety of English. These challenges turned out to be opportunities to broaden my research, pushing me to think about how best to adapt and conduct my research as well as address some of the questions that other researchers investigating bilingualism were asking too. These questions included (i) how age, proficiency and the way one learns a language affect second language performance and neural representation (Oh et al., 2019); (ii) how striatal and hippocampal systems underlie language function (Oh et al., 2011); and (iii) whether being bilingual leads to a cognitive advantage (research conducted by my PhD student Su Lin Seng).
While my early work focused on basic research questions, in recent years my interest has shifted towards more applied questions. This includes how findings from pure research can improve (i) the detection of disease or a condition; (ii) the healthcare support people receive after diagnosis of a disease; (iii) the way clinicians work or health services are run. Ensuring innovations in the latter are implemented in a sustainable way is a crucial consideration too. Another emerging area of interest relates to how we conduct the research itself, i.e. the trial science, in a way that is inclusive of marginalised populations. These questions are brought together in projects I am currently involved with:
(i) The NIHR-funded D-PACT project (Chief Investigator: Professor Richard Byng) that I currently manage aims to examine whether a dementia support worker based in primary care can be not only cost-effective but also effective at improving physical health, 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 appropriate outcome measures. The question of how to implement this complex intervention is a thread running through the entire project. (See (https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/primarycare/dementia/dementia-person-aligned-care-team)
(ii) As a result of COVID-19 our team has had to be agile and quickly figure out ways to conduct research remotely. We have developed (and continue to refine) methods to remotely recruit participants with dementia and to judge their capacity to consent. These methods could be adapted for use with other populations with cognitive decline or impairment. These papers are in preparation but if you are interested to know more in the meantime please do contact me or anyone in our group.
(iii) Hannah Waine (doctoral candidate) is working under the guidance of Dr Sally Bates and me (and Dr Pauline Frizelle as advisor) on a tool (and training) to better assess the naturalistic language of children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). The aim is to create an assessment that will not only be effective but also easy to use - and therefore widely adopted - by practitioners. Hannah can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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)
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 highlightedJournals
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.
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.
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)
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)