CFH awards two new Early Career Fellowships

Supporting early career researchers has been priority throughout the Centre's existence and we are pleased to announce the appointment of two new Fellows

Whereas in previous rounds, we have invited applications from those with some postdoctoral experience, the ambition with this funding round was to support individuals who just completed a PhD. Also for the first time we introduced a particular subject focus area: mental health and neuroscience.

We interviewed four very promising candidates and made two awards:

Name: Kate Lindley Baron-Cohen

Project title: Postnatal depression: investigating vulnerability in mothers and their infants

Project summary

Postnatal depression affects approximately 20% of new mothers. It has high clinical importance because it causes significant distress to the woman, and in severe cases can lead to suicide. In addition, postnatal depression can disrupt the mother’s caregiving capacity which has a negative impact on early child development and increases the child’s risk of developing long-term mental health difficulties.

Using novel data collected at psychological, behavioural and biological levels, Kate’s research will test the effect of postnatal depression on three factors associated with positive caregiving and early child development outcomes: (1) the parent’s reflective capacity and drive to attribute mental states to their infant, (2) ‘synchrony’ in parent-child interaction, and (3) the hormone oxytocin. This research will deepen our understanding about how mental health vulnerability develops and is maintained in the postnatal period, and how to identify which children of women with postnatal depression are most at risk of transgenerational difficulties. The findings will have clinical implications for improving screening of risk and treatment for postnatal depression.

Name: Akul Satish

Project title: How neural oscillations support the emergence of spatial representations

Project summary

Our ability to navigate in new environments requires the formation of neural representations that allow us to locate ourselves in that space. Recent research indicates that these location-based representations emerge in the retrosplenial cortex, highlighting the importance of this brain region in navigating in new environments. Critically, the retrosplenial cortex is one of the first brain regions to show degeneration is Alzheimer’s Disease and one of the key behavioural deficits in Alzheimer’s patients is spatial disorientation. Understanding the neural mechanisms underpinning our ability to form location-based representations in the brain is therefore a critical theoretical question that will provide the basis for understanding degeneration in Alzheimer’s Disease.

I will investigate the temporal dynamics of how these representations are formed using high-temporal precision neuroimaging (neural oscillations). We will use a novel, recently developed, experimental approach that allows me to track the emergence of spatial representations in the human brain. For the first time, I will use magnetoencephalography to understand how neural oscillations in the healthy human brain support the learning of spatial representations that allow us to navigate. The findings will provide foundations for a larger project that involves understanding the degeneration of this neural mechanism in Alzheimer's Disease.

Read more about our two new Fellows