I'm a lecturer (Assistant Prof in US terms) in cognitive neuroscience & neuroanatomy at the University of Manchester, UK. My research interests lie in understanding memory and impulsivity in health and in disease, primarily in people with epilepsy or multiple sclerosis (MS). My current research covers three main areas:

(1) Understanding how stressful experiences affect behaviour.  This work is funded by the BBSRC, and carried out by my PhD student, Liz McManus. It investigates how brain structure relates to the changes in memory and impulsivity seen following psychological stressors. As part of this work, I have demonstrated
that lower grey matter volumes in the right temporal pole and left ventral striatum (see figure below), is associated with higher levels of emotion-based impulsivity. This form of impulsive behaviour after stress is frequently seen in those with externalizing disorders, such as alcohol dependence, drug use and conduct disorder. By understanding how variation in brain structure relates to behaviour in the healthy population we hope to gain insight into why someone may be at increased risk of these disorders - and why others may show greater resilience.


(2) Investigating the neuropathology underlying cognitive impairment in people with MS. This work, funded by the MRC and carried out by my PhD student, Danka Jandric, examines how cognitive impairment in MS relates to changes in the brain's functional and structural connectivity. In previous work with colleagues at the UCL Institute of Neurology, we have used metabolic and structural MRI to uncover some of the pathological drivers of cognitive impairment in MS. We have shown that changes in memory relate to pathological loss of glutamate in the hippocampus. We also found that worsening decision-making is not caused by changes in impulsivity, but in the ability to adapt quickly to new situations. In addition, we have found that cognitive impairment in MS is associated with reduced activation in the default mode network, with atrophy and grey matter lesions in the cerebellum, but not with changes in GABA levels.



(3) Examining memory impairments in people with epilepsy, and in particular Accelerated Long-term Forgetting (ALF). ALF is characterised by normal or near normal memory for information over short, 30 minute delays but impaired memory over days or weeks.
This work, with Adam Zeman and Claire Isaac, has demonstrated that ALF affects memories for everyday events, and may be more common in those with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (particularly Transient Epileptic Amnesia) than in other forms of epilepsy. ALF is clinically underdiagnosed but impacts upon quality of life. Understanding the mechanisms of ALF offers insight into the workings of long-term memory.