People

Current members and collaborators of the unit are listed below.

To see DRRU alumni please click here.


Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit 2017


Directors

Prof. Essi Viding, PhD

Prof. Eamon McCrory, PhD, DClinPsy

Directors

Email: e.mccrory@ucl.ac.uk                               Email: e.viding@ucl.ac.uk

UCL Page                                                          UCL Page

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.


Post-Docs

Vanessa Puetz

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 Email: v.puetz@ucl.ac.uk

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

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Email: hoffmann@cbs.mpg.de

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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Christopher Pease

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Email: c.pease@ucl.ac.uk

My research interests include identifying, through multiple methods, individual differences in the aetiology, development, and persistence of antisocial attitudes and behaviours. As a postdoctoral research associate in the DRRU I am investigating social reward processing in adolescents with conduct problems. This project aims to identify the ways in which antisocial behaviour in young people may develop as an adaptation in response to their environment. I am also involved in disentangling the genetic and environmental influences underpinning the development and stability of callous-unemotional traits. I completed my doctoral research examining the individual differences related to anger, anger expression style, and cognitive hostility at the University of York, under the supervision of Dr Gary Lewis.

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Diana Armbruster-Genc

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Email: d.armbruster-genc@ucl.ac.uk

During my PhD at the University of Frankfurt, Germany, I focused on the neural mechanisms of cognitive flexibility and stability using behavioural, fMRI and computational modelling methods. After the completion of my training as a clinical psychotherapist at the University of Frankfurt, I joined the Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit in 2017 to investigate the neurocognitive systems constituting latent vulnerability for mental health problems following early life adversity, how they can be measured, and their neurobiological underpinnings. The long-term aim of my research is to help to identify those children who are in most need of help and to inform the development of prevention methods to promote resilience.

 

Louise Neil

Email: l.neil@ucl.ac.uk

I am a post-doctoral researcher, interested in how neurocognitive mechanisms may index risk and resilience for mental health difficulties. My doctoral thesis, from the Thomas Coram Research Unit, investigated teachers’ recognition of anxiety and somatic symptoms, building on previous research into the prevalence and patterning of anxiety and somatic symptoms in children. I started my research career at the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University, on a longitudinal study involving over 700 young people. More recently, I worked on a project into autistic children’s sensory sensitivities with Professor Liz Pellicano at the Centre for Research in Autism and Education (UCL IOE), where I investigated the relationship between intolerance of uncertainty, anxiety and sensory symptoms in children.

 

Christina Carlisi

Email: c.carlisi@ucl.ac.uk

After completing my B.A. at the George Washington University (Washington D.C.), I worked as a research assistant in the Section on Development and Affective Neuroscience at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) investigating the neurobiology of adolescent mood and anxiety disorders. I then completed my PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London in 2017, using fMRI to study shared and disorder-specific neurofunctional abnormalities related to executive function in adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I joined the DRRU in September 2017 as a Sir Henry Wellcome postdoctoral fellow supervised by Prof. Essi Viding at UCL, Prof. Ahmad Hariri (Duke University) and Dr. Isabelle Mareshcal (Queen Mary). My project uses structural equation modelling in multidimensional data (e.g. fMRI, DTI, neurocognitive, genetic, clinical) as well as computational methods (e.g. computational modelling, psychophysics) to examine individual differences in the mechanisms of affective processing. I am particularly interested in developing more sensitive measures of these differences to study how psychiatric traits develop across adolescence.



PhD Students

Ruth Roberts

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Email: r.roberts@ucl.ac.uk

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

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 Email: mattia.gerin.13@ucl.ac.uk

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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Rachel Smith

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Email: rachel.smith@nih.gov

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

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Email: shana.silverstein@nih.gov

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

Georgia Rankin

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Email: g.rankin@ucl.ac.uk

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

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Email: molly.sharp.13@ucl.ac.uk

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.

 

Chris Kelly

Email: christopher.kelly.16@ucl.ac.uk

I’m currently an MRes student in Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology at UCL and Yale University. My research interests include understanding the neural mechanisms that underly mood disorders and the development of screening methods for these disorders. I’m also interested in the mental health outcomes of individuals who have experienced early life stress. Prior to joining the DRRU, I was a Research Scholar in the Division of Psychiatry at Yale University doing research on the neural mechanisms of both post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

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Placement Students

Mary-Jane Perdiguerra

I joined the DRRU in September 2017 as a research intern, facilitating a project in which we investigate how children with a variety of behavioural problems process emotional and social information through the use of both fMRI and behavioural measures. Along with this, I am also part of another project that investigates emotional processing and adaptive social learning in typical and atypical developing adolescents. My interests refer to how mechanisms within the brain are accountable for registering emotional processing and application of neuropsychology in the clinical field, specifically in terms of psychopathy. Currently, whilst undertaking a semester-long placement in London, I am third year student at Seattle University pursuing a B.S. in Psychology.

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Collaborators

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

 

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