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Overview of the Speakers

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Dr. Judit Ciarrusta is a developmental neuroscientist interested in understanding how both spontaneous and experience dependent neural activity patterns shape the brain. After obtaining her degree in Psychology in Spain and her MSc in the Netherlands in Neuroscience, she moved to the UK to do her PhD. During her PhD at King's College London she used fMRI data to investigate typical and atypical neural activity patterns in newborn infants. She is currently a research fellow in Barcelona at the speech acquisition and perception lab at the Pompeu Fabra University trying to unravel how audiovisual stimuli with language content impact neural processes in very young infants.

Talk: Trying to make sense of the developing brain

 

Outline: This talk will briefly highlight some of the neural activity dependent mechanisms the brain utilizes to mature and how these mechanisms can be altered when an individual has a genetic vulnerability or has experienced an environmental insult. However, an atypical development does not necessarily mean an individual will have an array of clinically significant symptoms later in life and as such it is important to cover a few findings on compensatory mechanisms. Like in early development, nothing is set in stone and the last part of the talk will briefly cover a few basics about the diversity of paths in a scientific career. 

Dr. Judit Ciarrusta

Dr. Rianne Haartsen

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Dr. Rianne Haartsen is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is interested in individual differences in brain development trajectories and how these relates to later behaviours and clinical profiles of neurodevelopmental disorders. She mostly uses EEG in her research and is part of the BOND lab led by Professor Emily J.H. Jones. She holds a BSc in Psychology, MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience (both from Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands) and a PhD in Psychology (from Birkbeck College, UK). For more information and list of publications, see https://cbcd.bbk.ac.uk/node/113

Talk: Ideas on robust EEG methods in developmental research

Outline: Mapping trajectories of brain development and variability thereof is important for understanding its role in neurodevelopmental disorders. Alterations in brain development may relate to diagnostic outcomes and clinical profiles such as in autism. Heterogeneity in autism and use of traditional EEG (electroencephalography) experiments have led to mixed findings in autism studies. In this talk, I will discuss some novel methods we use in the lab and field to collect good quality EEG data, such as gaze-contingent paradigms and real-time EEG analysis. I will further demonstrate how data quantity affects reliability of EEG metrics in infants and toddlers.

In the final part of my talk, I will tell you about my academic career path and how my interests have led me to my current position.

Dr. Giorgia Bussu

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Dr. Giorgia Bussu is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Psychology at Uppsala University, Sweden, where she is a member of the Development and Neurodiversity Lab led by Prof. Terje Falck-Ytter. Her work focuses on individual variability in socio-cognitive skills across development and how this is influenced by genetic and environmental factors. She studied physics and specialized in medical physics at “La Sapienza” University of Rome, then she moved to the Netherlands to start working as a PhD candidate on a Marie-Sklodowska-Curie International Training Network grant at Radboudumc in Nijmegen. Her work then focused on the characterization of developmental trajectories in autism, and on the identification of early categorical and dimensional markers for the condition. In this developmental framework, she investigated individual variability among infant siblings using novel machine-learning and data-driven methods on integrated brain and behavioural data. After her PhD, she continued working at the Donders Institute and Radboudumc in Nijmegen as part of AIMS-2-Trials, investigating the influence of polygenic background for autism on neural substrates of the social brain obtained from EEG and MRI, and in turn behaviour.

Talk: Manipulation of phasic arousal by auditory cues and its modulatory effect on visual attention to faces in infancy.

Outline: Attention bias towards socially relevant stimuli, and particularly orienting to faces, enables infants to process social information and provides them with opportunities to develop social skills. A fast-subcortical pathway involving the superior colliculus, the pulvinar, the amygdala and higher-level visual areas has been previously proposed as a model for regulation of attention and oculomotor response to faces. In this talk, I will present findings on infant’s pupillary response to different manipulations of auditory alerting cues and associated gaze behaviour in the context of a visual pop-out task. I will discuss these findings in relation to the interaction between sensory processing, attention regulation and social behaviour mediated by the aforementioned subcortical system, and how this may differ in neurodevelopmental conditions like autism.

Chika Ezeugwu

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Chika Ezeugwu is a PhD candidate funded by the LEGO-Cambridge Scholarship at the University of Cambridge. Chika's scientific interests focus on integrating neuroscience, cognition, child development, and education to improve educational practise and experience of children from a low-income context. Chika studied applied psychology (BSc) at Adekunle Ajasin University and joined the Master’s programme in Psychology and Education at the University of Cambridge in 2019. Prior to Cambridge, Chika has worked on policy and strategy projects as a research assistant at Lagos Business School, Nigeria. Chika loves to PLAY and would love to see play-based educational interventions for children's scientific exploration in Africa.

Talk: What we know about executive function in Africa: A review

The details of this talk will follow shortly.

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