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Dr Jessica Steventon

Dr Jessica Steventon

Research Associate
Brain Imaging Group

School of Physics and Astronomy

+44 (0)29 2068 8758
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre, Maindy Road, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ


My research is focused on how the brain changes with age, and what factors can modify the ageing process. My main interest is the role of exercise and oestrogen as modifiers of brain ageing. 

Oestrogen is protective for the brain. When women go through the menopause, a natural part of ageing, oestrogen levels drop dramatically. Research studies have shown that changes occur in women’s brains after the menopause, some of which look similar to the changes seen in the brains of patients with dementia. 

It is well established that exercise is good for the brain,  however we don't currently know how much exercise, or what type of exercise is optimally beneficial.also don't know if exercise is beneficial for everyone. As well as understanding how the healthy brain responds to exercise, my work is also focused on understanding the effect of exercise in different diseases.

The ultimate goal of my work is to discover ways in which we can exploit the therapeutic potential of modifiers for improved brain health.


Education and qualifications

2010-2014 PhD Wellcome Trust Integrative Neuroscience, Cardiff University

2005-2009 BSc (Hons) Applied Psychology, Cardiff University

Honours and awards

  • Early Career Investigator Travel Bursary, BRAIN (Cerebral Blood Flow, Metabolism and Function), 2017
  • Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute Seedcorn Grant, 2017
  • British Science Association / Wellcome Trust Media Fellowship, 2016
  • ISMRM Summa Cum Laude Merit Award, 2016
  • Wellcome Trust ISSF Mobility Award, 2016
  • Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute Travel Award, 2015
  • Best Scientific presentation. 22nd Postgraduate Symposium of the British Chapter of ISMRM: London, UK, 2014
  • European Huntington’s Disease Network Seedcorn funding, 2010

Professional memberships

  • British Menopause Society
  • Imaging Cerebral Physiology Network
  • International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (2011-)
  • International Society for Cerebral Blood Flow (2016-)
  • European Huntington’s Disease Network imaging working group member (2013-)
  • Trainee Advisory Working Group Member ISMRM Annual Scientific Meeting (2013-2015)
  • Co-chair, Committee for Postgraduate British Chapter ISMRM (2013-14)
  • Chair, Postgraduate Cardiff Neuroscience Society (2012-13)
  • STEM Ambassador

Academic positions

2020- present Wellcome Trust ISSF Research Fellow, NMHRI, Cardiff University

2017 – 2019   Research Associate, School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University

2015-2017 Waterloo Foundation Early Career Research Fellow, NMHRI, Cardiff University

2014-2015 Research Associate, School of Psychology, Cardiff University

Speaking engagements

  • Waterloo Foundation Research Conference, Motor Function in Developmental Disorders, 2018
  • Waterloo Foundation Research Conference, Neurodevelopmental Conditions, 2017

  • Exercising the brain in health and disease; University of British Columbia MRI Research Centre, Vancouver, 2016

  • Brain Games 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 at the National Museum Wales, Cardiff

  • British Science Association Media Fellow - in 2016 I underwent  media training completing a placement whilst being mentored by a journalist at Open Democracy, where I wrote a number of articles, mainly focused on neuroscience and mental health.

Committees and reviewing

  • Journal Reviewer for [1] Scientific Reports [2] Frontiers in Neuroscience [3] Cerebral Cortex [4] Parkinsonism and Related Disorders [5] Journal of Neuroscience Methods [6] Neuroimage [7] JCI Insight [8] Neuroimage Clinical
  • Committee Member, Cardiff University Research Integrity and Ethics Committee










My research largely focuses on vascular ageing and whether risk factors for dementia can be identified in the decades before the disease develops.

My current fellowship funded by the Wellcome Trust aims to examine whether oestrogen levels have an effect on the health of blood vessels in the human brain for the first time using cutting-edge brain imaging techniques. Based on evidence from research in rodents, the idea which I am testing is is that the loss of oestrogen causes changes in the blood vessels in the brain which result in the brain not receiving an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients, which over time leads to damage to the brain and problems with memory and thinking. 

In my previous posts and fellowship funded by the Waterloo Foundation, I  looked at the effects of exercise on vascular function in the brain, and completed complementary experiments in both young and old healthy adults and in people with Huntington's Disease. The results of these studies can be found in the publications tab. 

A research aim for the future is to understand the interaction between exercise and oestrogen on brain health.