Education: BSc (Hons), MSc
Description of Research Projects:
Overall, I’m interested in elucidating the relationship between neural plasticity (and other neurophysiological mechanisms) and mental disorders. For my MSc (under the supervision of Drs. Tim Bussey and Lisa Saksida), I investigated the role adult hippocampal neurogenesis plays in emotion regulation, specifically depression-relevant reward-related behaviours. In particular, I assessed whether mice with neurogenesis knockdown exhibited a depression-like behavioural phenotype on a battery of appetitive touchscreen tests (i.e., tests that would fall under the “Positive Valence Systems” domain of the Research Domain Criteria [RDoC] matrix). The logic and theoretical framework underlying my MSc was related to the idea that depression as we currently know it (and likely also other mental disorders) is likely an umbrella term for multiple related disorders with differing underlying mechanisms. Such a thesis makes sense in terms of the variable symptomatology, response to treatment, and illness course among patients with depression.
For my PhD in philosophy, I’m continuing this empirical work on the connection between neurogenesis and mood, as well as delving more into the conceptual framework underlying my MSc in more depth (hence my move to philosophy). As a result, my supervisory team has expanded to also include Dr. Jackie Sullivan. For the theoretical component of my project, I’m analyzing which conceptual frameworks of depression, or mental disorders more generally, align most with scientific and clinical findings. For the empirical component, considering I didn’t find any significant or clear effects of neurogenesis knockdown on depression-relevant reward-related behaviours, I’m now focusing on teasing apart the relationship between neurogenesis knockdown and stress in depression-like behaviour. If time allows, I’d also like to have an additional line of inquiry investigating the relationship between neurogenesis and the immune system in depression-like behaviour as there’s research to suggest neurogenesis, immunity, and stress are all interrelated at many functional levels.