Current members and collaborators of the unit are listed below.

To see DRRU alumni please click here.

Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit 2016


Prof. Essi Viding, PhD

Prof. Eamon McCrory, PhD, DClinPsy


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Our research programme aims to combine multiple methods in order to understand the emergence of developmental psychopathology. Essi’s primary research focus is the study of different developmental pathways to persistent antisocial behaviour. Eamon’s primary research focus is the study of how childhood maltreatment can increase latent vulnerability to later mental health problems. We both, however, work closely across both research themes and are increasingly interested in how both risk and protective factors interact across development.


Vanessa Puetz



I conducted my doctoral research on the influences of early adverse experiences at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, University Hospital RWTH Aachen, Germany under the supervision of Professor Kerstin Konrad. In particular I focused on exploring the impact of early caregiver separation on the emotional and neural development of children. In order to investigate this question I employed a variety of assessments including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), endocrine measures and psychological assessments. Specifically, I examined the neural correlates of social rejection in a sample of children that were separated from their birth parents with fMRI. I joined the DRRU in October 2013 and continue to pursue my interest in investigating how early adversity affects later emotional (dys)function and the putative mechanisms that may increase vulnerability for psychiatric disorders. A key aspect of our current research is to investigate which factors promote resilience in children who have experienced early adversity. My work continues to employ both neuroimaging (s/fMRI) and behavioural approaches with the longer-term aim of informing more effective ways to support and intervene with children exposed to early adversity. I also contribute to several strands of postdoctoral teaching in the department, and act as module lead for the Affective Neuroscience module for the MSc in Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology.

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Ferdinand Hoffmann



I conducted my doctoral research on emotional egocentricity during empathy in children and in adults with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the Social Neuroscience department at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive Brain Sciences, in Leipzig, Germany, under the supervision of Prof. Tania Singer and Dr. Nikolaus Steinbeis. As a postdoc in that department I investigated how empathic brain responses predict altruistic helping in development conducting a large scale functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study in children. I joined the DRRU in January 2016 to investigate the neurocognitive mechanisms implicated in increased vulnerability for the development of psychiatric disorders after the experience of early life adversity. For that purpose I am employing a variety of neuroimaging (s/fMRI and resting-state fMRI) and behavioural measures. I also contribute to teaching in the department, for the Multiple Perspectives on Developmental Psychopathology module, for the MSc in Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology.

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Arjun Sethi



I am a post-doctoral research associate in the Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit, working on a project investigating emotion processing in conduct problems using fMRI. I am particularly interested in the neurobiological basis of callous-unemotional traits, and in better describing emotional dysfunction in conduct disorder populations that may put individuals at risk of developing psychopathy in adulthood. My work in the Forensic & Neurodevelopmental Sciences Department at the Institute of Psychiatry focused on using diffusion MRI tractography to examine networks underpinning affective and unempathic symptoms in both childhood and adulthood antisocial disorders. My PhD work at Brighton & Sussex Medical School used multi-modal MR analyses and computational modelling of reinforcement learning to examine the anatomy and function of mesolimbic and nigrostriatal systems in ADHD, and how these are therapeutically targeted by dopaminergic medications.

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Ana Seara-Cardoso



I am a postdoctoral research fellow based in the Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit and in the Neuropsychophysiology Lab (CIPsi, Universidade do Minho, Portugal). My research focuses on the study of the neurobiology of empathy, morality and antisocial behaviour. In particular, I am keen to understand how individual variability in neural correlates of empathic and moral processing are reflected in individual differences in psychopathic personality traits and antisocial behaviour.

PhD Students

Ruth Roberts



Following the completion of my MSc in Forensic Mental Health at Kings College London (KCL), I worked as the project coordinator on the Child Health and Development Study, a longitudinal research project at KCL which seeks to examine the developmental pathways of health and illness from childhood into young adulthood.  I joined the Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit at University College London in March 2014, working as a research assistant on the MRC funded Brains and Behaviour project which seeks to assess emotional processing in children with a range of behaviours using fMRI.  In September 2014 I started a PhD on the Brains and Behaviour project. My research seeks to explore aspects of parenting and the concept of mind-mindedness in children and their caregivers as well as children’s understanding of social norms.

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Mattia Indi Gerin



I have completed a B.Sc. in Psychology at the University of York and a 2-year M.Sc. in Developmental Neuroscience at University College London and Yale University. In 2015, I joined the DRRU as a PhD student funded by the The Anna Freud Centre and University College London (UCL) (Impact award scheme). Under the supervision of Prof. Eamon McCrory and Prof. Essi Viding, I am currently investigating how childhood maltreatment affects neurological and psychological functioning. In particular, my research aims to investigate potential psychological and neurological markers of psychiatric vulnerability and resilience following early adversity. In order to achieve those aims I am using neuroimaging techniques (such as task-based fMRI and resting-state functional connectivity measures) and behavioural experimental paradigms that measure cognitive and affective functioning.

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Matthew Constantinou



I joined the DRRU (Feb 2016) to complete one of three lab placements for the 4-year MRC PhD in Mental Health. I am working on a project investigating the structural correlates of parenting experience in a community sample of young adolescents, and how this relates to social, emotional, and behavioural adjustment. More generally, I am interested in attachment and the development and treatment of difficulties associated with complex trauma.

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Rachel Smith



After receiving my B.A in Psychology from Chapman University in 2011, I spent two years working in diagnostic peripheral neurophysiology, and then went on to complete a 2-year M.Sc. in Developmental Neuroscience at University College London (UCL) and Yale University.  In 2015, I began my PhD through the UCL/National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Joint Doctoral Training Program in Neuroscience.  This partnership allows me to divide my time between labs in the United States and London and to conduct cross-institutional, collaborative research under the supervision of Dr. Alex Martin from the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition at NIMH and Prof. Essi Viding at UCL.  My doctoral research focuses on the neurobiological correlates of social cognition and empathy in the context of different developmental disorders (e.g. autism spectrum disorders and conduct problems with callous unemotional traits).  In particular, I am interested in how differences in socio-affective abilities may relate to intrinsic brain activity.  To explore this, I am analyzing functional connectivity among neural networks via resting state fMRI and relating that baseline brain activity to a range of trait-level measures of social cognition and empathy.

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Shana Silverstein



I am a graduate student in partnership with the National Institutes of Health and University College London, currently working on part of my doctoral project at the NIAAA with Dr. Andrew Holmes and UCL with Profs Essi Viding and Jon Roiser. Before beginning my PhD, I graduated with a B.A. in Neuroscience and a minor in dance from Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) in 2010 and a M.S. in Physiology from Georgetown University (Washington, DC) in 2013. My doctoral research is a translational project aimed at uncovering some of the brain regions and directional circuits involved in vicarious learning of fear in both mice and humans. I am particularly interested in regions and pathways connecting the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus. By using mice to model human pathologies, such as psychopathy or anxiety disorders, we can gain a better understanding of the deficient functioning at a molecular and mechanistic level in order to inform and direct better targeted therapies. We can then also run parallel studies in humans using neuroimaging methods.

Research Assistants

Iakovina Koutoufa



I joined the DRRU in early 2015 as a part-time intern and I am working on a project that investigates the effects of early adversity on later cognitive and emotional functioning, with particular focus on autobiographical memory using behavioural and neuroimaging data. I am concurrently interning at two clinical trials at the Anna Freud Centre investigating depression in children and adults. I am particularly interested in investigating the mechanisms of clinical interventions using neuroimaging techniques. I recently completed an MSc in Developmental Psychology at UCL and plan on pursuing a PhD in the future.

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Georgia Rankin



I began working as a research assistant in the DRRU in 2016 after graduating from Royal Holloway University with a BSc in Psychology the previous summer. I am involved in a longitudinal project, which uses fMRI and behavioural measures to explore how adversity during childhood might affect later emotional and cognitive functioning, in terms of both psychological resilience and vulnerability. I am also a part-time research assistant in the Emotion, Development and Brain Lab at Royal Holloway, working on a project investigating emotion regulation development in adolescence. I am extremely interested in the application of neuroscience to clinical psychology, and plan on completing a Clinical Doctorate in the future. I hope to be involved in advancing current understanding of the processes/systems underlying diverse psychiatric symptoms, and progressing diagnosis towards more cognitive and biological measures.

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Molly Sharp



I joined the DRRU in August 2016 after completing a BSc in Psychology at University College London earlier this year. I am involved with two projects in the DRRU, which both use behavioural and neuroimaging methodology. The first project is examining emotional processing in children with behavioural difficulties. The second is exploring how childhood adversity impacts on later emotional functioning, and the mechanisms that promote mental health risk and resiliency. I am especially interested in how developmental psychopathology research can inform more nuanced and specific prevention and intervention strategies.

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Placement Students

Harriet Phillips



I joined the DRRU in June 2016 for the placement year of my BSc in Psychology at the University of Bath. I am working on the Brains and Behaviour project, which is investigating how children with a variety of behavioural problems process emotion, using both fMRI and behavioural measures. My personal interests refer to how the neural pathways of the brain are accountable for the differences in registering emotion. I am particularly interested in investigating empathy and psychopathy in terms of neural activity and how their development can be influenced by certain risk factors. I am also interested in the application of neuroscience to the clinical field, specifically in terms of psychopathology.

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Nicole De Lima


I joined the DRRU in September 2015 as part of a year-long placement where I am working on a project investigating emotional processing in children with behavioural issues using fMRI. I am currently in the penultimate year of my BSc Psychology with Professional Placement from Cardiff University. I am interested in the use of neuroimaging techniques to explore the development of neural pathways in the brain.



Prof. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

Dr. Geoff Bird

Dr Jon Roiser

Dr Fruhling Rijsdijk

Prof. Craig Neuman

Prof. Mark Dadds

Prof. Peter Fonagy

Prof. Norah Frederickson

Prof. Paul Frick

Prof. Ahmad Hariri

Prof. Linda Mayes

Dr. Andrea Mechelli

Prof. Robert Plomin

Dr Philip Shaw

Dr Gregory L. Wallace