BrainsCAN's Postdoctoral Associates

Through the Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, BrainsCAN is bringing the world’s most promising early career cognitive neuroscientists to Western University. Training the next generation of researchers is a key aim of BrainsCAN, and postdoctoral fellows are the engines of innovative research.

In fall 2017, the first set of fellows joined the program under the designation of a BrainsCAN Fellow or Postdoctoral Associate. 

Learn about the Postdoctoral Associates and their research.


Current BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associates:
Marieka DeVuono, Chris Forgaard, Roy Haast, Ahmed HashadHiroyuki Igarashi, Jonathan MichaelsSasha Reschechtko, Swathi Swaminathan

Former BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associates: 
Justine CléryFelix Desmeules-TrudelChelsea Ekstrand, Cassandra Lowe, Christina McDonnell, Mojtaba SoltanlouMelissa Troyer, Joana Vieira, Jeff WeilerYiming Xiao

Current BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associates

Marieka DeVuono
Marieka DeVuono
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate
PhD, Psychology and Neuroscience - University of Guelph

Investigating sex and dose-dependent cognitive impairments produced by adolescent THC exposure

Supervisor(s): Dr. Steven Laviolette, Dr. Susanne Schmid, Dr. Walter Rushlow
Research Information:
Cannabis use during adolescence can lead to long-term cognitive deficits and is associated with an increased risk for neuropsychiatric disorders later in life. The primary psychoactive component of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may interrupt normal brain maturation during this critical period of development, leading to long-term cognitive consequences. The specific neurobiological mechanisms of these impairments remain unknown. Using a preclinical model of adolescent THC exposure, this project will investigate the neural pathways and molecular changes underlying cognitive impairments produced by adolescent THC exposure. A variety of THC doses will be investigated because THC is known to produce biphasic effects on multiple cognitive processes, where low and high doses often produce opposite effects. Higher potency cannabis is also associated with greater cognitive risks. Moreover, THC is known to produce sex-specific effects, yet the majority of research on the effect of adolescent THC exposure has been done exclusively in males. This project will also address this knowledge gap and investigate the sex-dependent effects of THC on cognitive development. Results from this study will advance our knowledge of the long-term consequences of adolescent cannabis use and have the potential to influence the development of treatments for disorders with cognitive impairments.
Chris Forgaard
Chris Forgaard
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate
PhD, Human Motor Control - University of British Columbia

Neuroplasticity in sensorimotor feedback driven by visual observation

Supervisor(s): Dr. Paul Gribble, Dr. Andrew Pruszynski
Research Information:
An influential concept in neuroscience is that the acquisition of new movements can be mediated not only through physical practice, but also through the visual observation of a tutor learning a skill. Relevant investigations have focused on the influence of observational learning on voluntary movement control but whether observation can also influence reactive (feedback-based or “reflexive”) control remains to be explored. Our research program tests the hypothesis that visual observation of a tutor learning a motor skill produces similar changes in the observer’s feedback responses as physical practice, and that such changes reflect the formation of sensorimotor neural representations of the forces required for both movement and improvements in motor function. The findings of this research program are anticipated to have important clinical relevance. For example, previous work has produced conflicting findings on whether observation-based rehabilitation programs can improve sensorimotor function in various diseases such as stroke. It is also known that stroke survivors have a diminished capacity to adjust feedback responses in a goal-directed manner. A better understanding of how observational learning engages neural circuitry of both voluntary and feedback-based mechanisms in the healthy brain is necessary before we can test novel clinical interventions that have an observational component.
Roy Haast
Roy Haast
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate
PhD, Neuroimaging - Maastricht University

Hippocampal subregion characterization using vascular ultra-high field MRI

Supervisor(s): Dr. Ali Khan, Dr. Stefan Köhler
Research Information:
The hippocampal formation is of vital importance for proper daily life functioning as it allows us to store and recall information. During this project, I will mainly focus on the anatomical and vascular differences across different parts of the hippocampal formation and how these relate to their functional specialization with respect to memory processing. The results of this project will (a) contribute to an enhanced understanding of the hippocampal formation, (b) facilitate the development of novel subregion-specific markers, and (c) fill current knowledge gaps to guide the interpretation of the observed structural and functional changes in neurodegenerative and vascular diseases.
Ahmed Hashad
Ahmed Hashad
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate
PhD, Cardiovascular and Respiratory Sciences - University of Calgary

Cortical Microcircuits Underlying Stress-induced Cognitive Impairments

Supervisor(s): Dr. Wataru Inoue, Dr. Julio Martinez-Trujillo, Dr. Lisa Saksida, Dr. Tim Bussey
Research Information:
Stress impairs memory in healthy individuals and worsens it in mental illnesses. These impairments arise from defects in a specific brain region. We propose that a chemical signal that is produced during stress will suppress the activity of this brain region and impair memory. First, we will develop a state-of-the-art technique to sensitively measure this chemical signal in the brain during stress. Next, we will use an advanced memory testing system to examine the effects of this stress signal on specific types of memory. Interestingly, this protein is more abundant in females. So, we will test sex-specific effects of this protein.
Hiroyuki Igarashi
Hiroyuki Igarashi
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate
PhD, Medical Sciences - Tohoku University, Japan

Optogenetic manipulation of intracellular calcium ion dynamics to regulate neural plasticity during stress

Supervisor(s): Dr. Wataru Inoue, Dr. Julio Martinez-Trujillo, Dr. Marco Prado
Research Information:
Stress impairs cognitive ability in otherwise healthy individuals and dramatically affects memory and learning in disparate brain disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders and autism. The effects of stress on cognition is due in part to the dysregulation of neural plasticity. This project will explain the spatiotemporal association of internal calcium ion – one of the second messengers – to neural plasticity and their roles in stress-induced cognitive impairment in mouse models.
Jonathan Michaels
Jonathan Michaels
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate
PhD, Systems Neuroscience - University of Göttingen, Germany

Neural and Computational Basis of Goal-Dependent Feedback Control

Supervisor(s): Dr. Andrew Pruszynski, Dr. Jörn Diedrichsen
Research Information:
Think fast - a colleague unexpectedly bumps into your arm while you’re carrying your coffee mug. If the cup is full of hot coffee your reaction will look strikingly different than if the cup is empty. Understanding how the brain incorporates high-level contextual information while dealing with unexpected sensory feedback is essential in understanding movement. Yet, the brain regions and computational principles involved remain unclear. In this project we will generate a novel set of behavioural tasks, recording techniques, network models, and biomechanical modeling tools to elucidate the circuits and computations involved in using context and expectation to make feedback corrections in humans and NHP.
Sasha
Sasha Reschechtko
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate
PhD, Kinesiology - Pennsylvania State University

Central determinants of recovery from peripheral nerve injury

Supervisor(s): Dr. Andrew Pruszynski, Dr. Jörn Diedrichsen
Research Information:
Peripheral nerve injury (PNI) in the upper limb often degrades hand function and quality of life. Peripheral nerves – including the median and ulnar nerves that innervate the hand – are capable of regrowth, but patients show a wide range of outcomes after regrowth is complete and many are left with markedly reduced hand function. Critically, the neural basis of successful recovery is unknown. Here, we propose a novel set of behavioral tasks and modern neuroimaging assays to directly test how cortical reorganization influences functional hand recovery after peripheral nerve injury in humans. Our work will provide new insights into the basic neural representation of the hand and may improve clinical practice by motivating interventions that target the precise neural determinants of successful recovery.
Swathi Swaminathan
Swathi Swaminathan
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate
PhD, Psychology – University of Toronto

Travelling through time with music: Assessing the use of music to support autobiographical memory in older adults with and without Alzheimer’s disease

Supervisor(s): Dr. Jessica Grahn, Dr. Stefan Köhler, Dr. Elizabeth Finger
Research Information:
Music is a powerful cue that can induce a sense of nostalgia even in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) with autobiographical memory (AM) deficits. However, it is unknown why music cues AM recall and whether musical interventions provide sustained benefits to AM and wellbeing. Using behavioral and functional MRI techniques, my project will investigate two potential mechanisms: Music could improve AM because it (1) improves mood, and/or (2) promotes connection to one’s identity. Persons with AD often face barriers to accessing recreation, including musical ones, and recent efforts to tackle this include leveraging technology to bring long-term musical interventions to individuals' own homes. Accordingly, this project will also assess whether such technology-driven musical interventions successfully support AM and wellbeing long-term. The results of this project could inform both theory, and clinical/community practice of managing AD symptoms.

 

Former BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associates

Justine Cléry
Justine Cléry
Postdoctoral Fellow
Western University

BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate (2017 - 2021)
Ultra-high field functional mapping of the multisensory integration network in NHPs
Supervisor(s): Dr. Stefan Everling, Dr. Ravi Menon

PhD, Neurosciences and Cognition - Université Claude Bernard Lyon I, France
Felix Desmeules-Trudel
Félix Desmeules-Trudel (top-up)
Postdoctoral Fellow
Western University

BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate (2019 - 2020)
Second language learning: From low-level phonetic processing to learning new words
Supervisor(s): Dr. Marc Joanisse

PhD, Linguistics - University of Ottawa
Chelsea Ekstrand
Chelsea Ekstrand
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
University of Lethbridge

BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate (2019 - 2020)
Advancing inter-subject correlation approaches to naturalistic cognition using immersive virtual environments
Supervisor(s): Dr. Jody Culham, Dr. Ingrid Johnsrude

PhD, Psychology, Cognition and Neuroscience - University of Saskatchewan
Cassandra Lowe
Cassandra Lowe
Began as a Tier I BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Fellow in August, 2019.

BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate (2018 - 2019)
Assessment of the neural mechanisms underlying self-regulation, and the factors that influence the development of these mechanisms
Supervisor(s): Dr. J. Bruce Morton

PhD, Public Health and Health Systems - University of Waterloo
Christina McDonnell
Christina McDonnell
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology, Clinical Science Area
Faculty Affiliate,  VT Center for Autism Research
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, United States

BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate (2018 - 2019)
The Neurobiology of Autobiographical Memory and Emotion Socialization in Autism Spectrum Disorder
Supervisor(s): Dr. Ryan Stevenson, Dr. Elizabeth Hayden

PhD, Clinical Psychology - University of Notre Dame
Mojtaba Soltanlou
Mojtaba Soltanlou
Began as a Tier I BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Fellow in June, 2020.

BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate (2019 - 2020)
How do we know “2” but not “3” means “two”? Neural correlates of symbolic number knowledge in kindergarteners
Supervisor(s): Dr. Daniel Ansari, Dr. Marc Joanisse

PhD, Neuroscience – University of Tübingen
Melissa Troyer
Melissa Troyer
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Illinois

BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate (2019 - 2020)
Integrating big data and neuroimaging to understand variation in knowledge organization and its influence on language comprehension
Supervisor(s): Dr. Ken McRae, Dr. Marc Joanisse, Dr. Stefan Köhler

PhD, Cognitive Science - University of California, San Diego
Joana Vieira
Joana Vieira (top-up)
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Clinical Neuroscience
Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate (2017 - 2018)
Does sensitivity to others’ fear promote the willingness to help them in threatening situations?
Supervisor(s): Dr. Derek Mitchell

PhD, Neuroscience - University of Porto, Portugal

 

Jeffery Weiler
Jeff Weiler (top-up)
Began as a Tier I BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Fellow in March, 2019

BrainsCAN Fellow (2017 - 2018)
Compensatory cortical plasticity following induced spinal dysfunction 
Supervisor(s): Andrew Pruszynski, Paul Gribble

PhD, Kinesiology - Western University
Yiming Xiao
Yiming Xiao
Began as a Tier I BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Fellow in June, 2020.

BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate (2018 - 2020)
Incorporating human brain connectome in planning deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson's disease
Supervisor(s): Dr. Terry Peters, Dr. Ali Khan

PhD, Biomedical Engineering - McGill University