Research student, School of Psychology
- T2.16, Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT
My research aims to isolate the cognitive, motivational and hedonic aspects of reward processing and elucidate their neurobiological underpinnings. Disruptions to reward processing are often reported as key symptoms of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as depression, and thus the development and application of appropriate methods to measure these behaviours is essential to elucidate the neurobiological mechanisms underpinning disruptions in reward processing. My work focuses on the effects of stress and the immune system on these isolated behaviours, with my interests in the early life exposure to these risk factors.
2013 – 2017: 1st Class BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences (Neuroscience), Cardiff University.
2015 – 2016: Professional Training Year in the Brain Repair Group, Cardiff University.
2017 – 2021: BBSRC-funded SWBio DTP, Cardiff University.
2017 – 2018: Distinction, SWBio DTP Taught First Year (MRes), Bristol University.
2018 - Present: Vice-Communications Officer, Postgraduate Cardiff Neuroscience Society (PCNS).
2018 - Present: Contributing author and editor, The Brain Domain.
2018 - Present: e-Mentor, The Mullany Fund.
2016 - Present: STEM ambassador. Activities include: Cheltenham Science Festival, Brain Activities Day, Brain Games.
Processing and responding to rewards is an essential aspect of maintaining our health and wellbeing, as disruptions to reward processing can be seen across a range of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia.
Maintaining normal reward processing involves an interaction of affective responses (hedonic experience, i.e. "pleasure"), cognition (e.g. learning appropriate representations of rewards in the environment), and motivation (e.g. the ability to alter responses to rewards based on current biological needs).
My PhD aims to isolate these three aspects of reward processing and elucidate the neurobiological substrates underpinning each. To do this, I use a combination of behavioural assays of rodent behaviour, including the affective bias test (ABT) developed in Bristol University, microstructural analysis of consumption, and the effort-related choice paradigm. Using pharmacological manipulations and histological analyses, we can pinpoint the neurobiological substrates normally contributing to each individual aspect, to identify target areas and systems that may be involved in the development of specific psychiatric disturbances.
Furthermore, I am interested in the effects of stress and the immune system, particularly occuring early in life, on the development of specific symptoms of psychiatric disease. Thus, I also aim to use the behavioural assays validated in the early stages of my PhD to examine the impact of environmental factors, e.g. early life adversity and maternal infection, on the development of reward processing deficits.
Professor Emma Robinson (Bristol University)
June - September 2017: Research Assistant, Brain Repair Group, Cardiff University.
September 2015 - June 2016: Professional Training Year, Brain Repair Group, Cardiff University.
Title: Optimising cell replacement therapy for rodent lesion models of Parkinson's disease.
- Experience using a combination of motor tests, immunohistochemical analyses, MRI and PET imaging to investigate functionality, survival and molecular characterisation of foetal-derived and embryonic stem cell-derived dopaminergic neuron transplants.
Postgraduate Tutor, School of Psychology:
Delivering tutorials to first year psychology undergraduates aiming to improve writing of practical reports.
Includes marking practical reports and exam scripts.
Laboratory Demonstrator, School of Biosciences:
Muscle Contraction Practicals, Autumn Semester, 2017-Present.
Practical Skills Measures, Autumn Semester, 2018-Present.
Behavioural analysis of cognitive, motivational and hedonic aspects of reward processing.
BBSRC SWBio DTP