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:
Justine Cléry, Hiroyuki Igarashi, Cassandra Lowe, Christina McDonnell, Sasha Reschechtko, Yiming Xiao

Former BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associates: 
Joana Vieira, Jeffery Weiler

Current BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associates

Justine Clery
Justine Cléry
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate
PhD, Neurosciences and Cognition - Université Claude Bernard Lyon I, France

Identification of the effective connectivity changes in cortical and subcortical networks during pro- and antisaccades using combination of fMRI and optogenetics/electrical microstimulation in NHPs

Supervisor(s): Stefan Everling, Ravi Menon
Research Information:
Humans and NHPs have an exceptional ability to voluntarily control their actions. This control is crucial in a swiftly changing environment when automatic or previously learned responses can no longer achieve a goal, for example when subjects must inhibit a habitual response, ignore distracting stimuli, shift between tasks, or choose between competing alternative actions. To successfully switch from one task to another, task relevant information must be selected and maintained over task-irrelevant information. Functional neuroimaging studies have found a network of frontoparietal brain areas that activates more strongly on trials where the task is switched then repeated, including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, frontal eye fields (FEF), anterior cingulate cortex, and posterior parietal cortex and also supported by task selective activity from single unit recordings in NHPs. The main objective of the present research proposal is to identify effective connectivity changes in cortical and subcortical networks during pro- and anti-saccades using a combination of fMRI and optogenetic/electrical microstimulation in NHPs. In addition, we will examine how large-scale functional and effective connectivity changes while the NHPs learn the task.
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): Wataru Inoue, Julio Martinez-Trujillo, 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.
Cassandra Lowe
Cassandra Lowe
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate
PhD, Public Health and Health Systems - University of Waterloo

Assessment of the neural mechanisms underlying self-regulation, and the factors that influence the development of these mechanisms

Supervisor(s): J. Bruce Morton
Research Information:
A fundamental understanding of neurocognitive factors that increase susceptibility to ill-health is of the utmost importance from both a research and broader social and public health perspective. In particular, there is need for a specific focus on the developmental neural trajectories that influence development of self-regulatory abilities, such as the capacity to control impulses or delay gratification to immediate rewards particularly in the presence of appetitive cues or stimuli, and otherwise acting in a goal directed manner is critical for the maintenance of both physical and mental health; such self-regulatory abilities are thought to be a form of cognitive control or executive functioning. However, in order to fully elucidate the factors that influence the development of self-regulation, a better understanding of the cognitive control networks and mechanisms driving successful self-regulation is necessary. To date, only a handful of studies have sought to examine the causal relationship between prefrontal functionality and reward based decision making, and thus, several critical questions still remain to be addressed. Most importantly, can suboptimal prefrontal cortical functionality be regarded as a risk factor for impulsive and reward driven decision making?
Christina McDonnell
Christina McDonnell
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate
PhD, Clinical Psychology - University of Notre Dame

The Neurobiology of Autobiographical Memory and Emotion Socialization in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Supervisor(s): Ryan Stevenson, Elizabeth Hayden
Research Information:
Guided by developmental psychopathology theory, I conduct basic and applied research in the contexts of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), maltreatment, and typical development with a focus on evaluating mechanisms at multiple levels of analysis that promote socio-emotional functioning across these diverse contexts. More specifically, my research seeks to (1) understand emotion socialization and autobiographical memory as transdiagnostic developmental mechanisms of psychopathology, with particularly important implications for ASD and child maltreatment, (2) characterize the experience of trauma in ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders given the high rates of abuse among children with developmental disabilities, and (3) reduce broader disparities in ASD identification and treatment via assessment of diagnostic experiences and evaluation of outcomes (e.g., parent-child relationships, memory, emotional functioning) that are not typically addressed in current behavioral interventions.
Sasha
Sasha Reschechtko
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate
PhD, Kinesiology - Pennsylvania State University

Central determinants of recovery from peripheral nerve injury

Supervisor(s): Andrew Pruszynski, 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.
Yiming Xiao
Yiming Xiao
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate
PhD, Biomedical Engineering - McGill University

Incorporating human brain connectome in planning deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson's disease

Supervisor(s): Terry Peters, Ali Khan
Research Information:
As the second most frequent neuro-degenerative disorder worldwide, Parkinson's disease (PD) is primarily characterized by motor symptoms, but can also be accompanied by psychiatric symptoms, sleep disturbance, and cognitive impairment. Besides pharmaceutical therapy, deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an effective surgical treatment, where an electrode is implanted in the brain to re-normalize the motor neuro-circuitry. With the stimulation targets of the Globus Pallidus interna (GPi) and the subthalamic nucleus (STN), the success of the procedure depends on the accurate placement of the electrode while avoiding adjacent nuclei that can cause adverse effects. By integrating brain connectivity information, data-driven surgical planning can help improve the surgical planning of deep brain stimulation therapy to treat Parkinson’s disease.

 

Former BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associates

Joana Vieira
Joana Vieira
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate (Top-Up)
PhD, Neuroscience - University of Porto, Portugal

 

Jeffery Weiler
Jeffery Weiler
BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Associate (Top-Up)
PhD, Kinesiology - Western University