Meet the author > Dr Tom Manly

Dr Tom Manly

Dr Tom ManlyWhere did you study/what did you study/what are your qualifications?

Having achieved some staggeringly poor A-level results (largely due to a generous over-application of the concept of school ‘free-period’!) I was very lucky to be offered a place to study Psychology at the then Polytechnic of Central London (now University of Westminster).

The course was run by the inspirational David Groome (who went on to win a British Psychology Society award for teaching excellence) and a remarkable number of my cohort are now eminent working psychologists.

After that I worked as a nursing assistant in a psychiatric hospital and an assistant psychologist to gain clinical experience before training as a Clinical Psychologist at University College London. Later I completed a PhD supervised by Ian Robertson, one of the leading people in the field of neuropsychological rehabilitation.

Professional experience?

I specialised in neuropsychology and neuropsychological rehabilitation and have largely worked with adults with brain injuries from accidents and strokes. Sometimes the most fruitful things in research and clinical practice come from crossing boundaries.

I became interested in children’s attention when a young boy was referred to us who, despite never having had any sort of brain injury, showed a pattern of missing information on the left that we were seeing in adult stroke patients. That work led to the development of the Test of Everyday Attention for Children (TEA-Ch), which Pearson publishes.

What are your current projects?

One of our main interests stems from the observation that neuropsychological deficits (eg attention or memory problems) are rarely absolute or stable – people retain some abilities and their capacity to express these varies quite considerably. If we can identify the conditions under which people are more likely to plan, remember, think things through etc. we will be in a better position to help them.

With colleagues at the Oliver Zangwill Centre for Neuropsychological Rehabilitation we have just completed a randomised control trial looking at patients goal attainment with periodic cueing. Tom Manly with son Hector in Las VegasWe are keen to extend this work, particularly with children. Other current projects include looking at changes in attention with sleep and interactions of mood with cognitive function following brain injury.

Who have you worked with?

I have been lucky to work closely with Ian Robertson, Barbara Wilson and John Evans in neuropsychology and test development. Our Unit in Cambridge is a great place to meet people including Alan Baddeley, John Duncan, Tim Shallice, Dorothy Bishop, Karalyn Patterson and our current director, Sue Gathercole.


What inspired you to get into this field?

When I was training as a clinical psychologist, (now Professor) Paul Burgess (author of the Hayling and Brixton tests and the BADS) was very influential in getting me interested in neuropsychology.

His office was always full of felt-tips, Mechano sets, boxes of cards and so forth for the development of new tests, sometimes to assess function in a single patient. He is good evidence that neuropsychology is the main reason we learn all about cutting out and colouring in at primary school!

If you weren’t a Clinical Psychologist what would you be?

Given the bonuses in good times and bad, the evidence strongly suggests that I should have gone into banking! As a child, however, I loved the radio and that was a direction I was thinking of taking before psychology got in the way.

What do you do away from work? Hobbies? Favourite bands/sports teams/holiday destinations?

For a long time I was the ‘singer’ in a hugely unsuccessful but enjoyable band, The Hamiltons. More recently my attention seeking tendencies have found outlet doing science based stand-up comedy under UCL’s BrightClub umbrella (see which I would recommend to anyone, not because you will be funny but because no other presentation will ever make you that nervous. 

Quick questions:

What’s your favourite book (and why)?

I love One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch because it seems to say something very fundamental about human pleasure/satisfaction in even the most unpromising of situations. Also the Meaning of Liff by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd which gives definitions to UK town names (an Ely, for example, is “that first, tiniest inkling you get that something, somewhere has gone terribly wrong.” which, of course, it is!)

What’s your favourite album (and why)?

The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead – because it is completely, unutterably awesome!

Who’s your favourite musician/composer/singer (and why)?

Dreadful controversialist as he may be, Stephen Patrick Morrissey just seemed to come out of nowhere in the early 80s and be so completely different in every way to everyone else it remains quite shocking.

Whom do you most admire (and why)?

The makers of the Simpsons. Five hundred and eight episodes with rarely a foot wrong. If the ages do not recognise it as the cultural highlight of this and the last century, something somewhere has gone terribly wrong!


Dr Tom Manly is author of Test of Everyday Attention for Children (TEA-Ch) and a member of the Research Staff at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit.

What do you think?