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Neurodevelopment of emotion and cognition

Supervisors: Angela Roberts, Ed Bullmore, Steve Sawiak

Psychological health and wellbeing in adulthood is highly dependent upon how our genes and our environment shape the development of our nervous system, in particular those higher order circuits involved in the regulation of cognition and emotion. However, our understanding of brain system development so far is relatively poor, with descriptions primarily at the level of gross cortical features e.g. lobes (parietal, frontal…) or structure, e.g. numbers of layers, (allocortical (3 layers) versus neocortical (6 layers)). This programme of investigation will achieve a much finer level of detail, focusing in particular on mapping the developmental trajectories of distinct prefrontal cortical circuits involved in specific aspects of cognition and emotion in primates (marmosets) and rodents (rats and mice). Studies in animals, in which the time windows of development are much shorter than humans, make them particularly valuable for studying developmental processes, especially since it is also possible to perform targeted manipulations at specific time points to determine the impact of environmental insult on brain circuit development and ultimately the regulation of cognition and emotion in adulthood. Key to these investigations is the ability to use state-of-the-art imaging techniques, including resting state fMRI and chemically-specific spectroscopy to characterize these circuits across development, before, during and post puberty. Close interactions with the Clinical School will enable comparison of developmental trajectories in animals with those in humans, especially during adolescence. Any student working on this project will have access to the new 9.4T MRI scanner in the recently opened Translational Neuroimaging Laboratory


Relevant references

Drysdale et al (2017) Nature Medicine, 23:28-44.

Shiba et al, (2016) Frontiers in Systems Neurosci. 10:12.

Shaw et al (2008) J Neurosci. 28:3586-3594.