Director of PERL
I am an experimental psychologist who became fascinated by how antidepressants work both in terms of our brains but also our psychology. Our research looks at different treatments for depression, trying to find out what makes treatment effective, whether it is based on a medicine, a talking therapy, lifestyle change and more. By taking this approach we try to improve treatments of the future – making them more effective, faster or working for subgroups of patients that might not be helped by current treatments.
Using a translational experimental medicine approach, my research assesses novel treatment approaches in humans to understand their mechanisms and predict later treatment efficacy, particularly in psychiatric treatment development. I am currently characterizing the neuropsychological effects of novel antidepressant targets and work with pharmaceutical companies to deploy this approach in drug development.
I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Psychopharmacology and Emotion Research Lab, interested in understanding the mechanisms of psychiatric problems and their treatments. My current project investigates the effect of a novel antidepressant on cognitive processing in patients with depression, and I also coordinate a large longitudinal online study investigating emotional cognition during the pandemic.
I have worked as a postdoctoral researcher in RIKEN Brain Sciences Institute and Center for Information and Neural Networks (CiNet) on computational models of decision-making and social interactive games. My current research focuses on investigating reinforcement learning and social interactive decision-making in patients with depression and healthy volunteers undergoing pharmacological manipulation.
NIHR Oxford Health BRC Postdoctoral Researcher
My work within the PERL focuses on understanding how the brain processes emotional information and how this is affected by neurotransmitters such as serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine. They also investigate how genetic factors impact brain functions relevant to psychiatric illness, particularly the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene’s influence on dopamine, memory, and emotional processing, and how stress alters these links.
Angharad de Cates
Guarantors of Brain Postdoctoral Researcher
My postdoctoral research includes investigating new agents that may work as antidepressants and improve cognition in humans, as well as factors that may increase the risk of future episodes of depression in those who have had depression in the past using imaging data of large datasets, including the UK Biobank. I also work in the studies within the group that look at agents that act on specific serotonin receptors (the 5HT4 receptor) and lead the PROGRESS study team.
Riccardo De Giorgi
As a Clinical Lecturer and ST4-6 at the University of Oxford, I am interested in neuropsychopharmacology and evidence-based treatment for mood disorders, with a focus on treatment-resistant depression. My current research investigates the repurposing of drugs with anti-inflammatory potential for treating depression, using early markers of antidepressant response and immunophenotypic peripheral blood markers to validate their potential in further clinical trials.
I’m a DPhil student interested in reward processing in the context of psychopharmacology and experimental medicine. I am currently working on the REPAC study: The REward Processing and Citalopram Study.
I am a DPhil Student within PERL, supervised by Dr Susannah Murphy and Professor Catherine Harmer. During my masters thesis, I explored the effects of escitalopram on memory encoding in adaptive anxiety. This was achieved using MRI and the threat of shock paradigm. Prior to this, I completed a BSc in Psychology. I’m currently reading for a DPhil in Psychiatry.
It’s a pleasure to be a member of PERL, where I am working on projects aimed at better understanding how chemicals in our brain (neurotransmitters) influence important aspects of our lives, such as our ability to remember information or process emotions. If you’d like to know more, I would be more than happy to receive any emails.
My research interests mainly sit at the intersection of social psychology and intervention science. With the SOMA study, I am presently investigating the potential benefits of cooperative, social movement-based activities (such as salsa dance!) for individuals with low mood, depression, and loneliness. We hope to translate this research to various applications within the NHS mental healthcare systems. Feel free to reach out to me on my LinkedIn or Twitter if you would like to learn more.
At PERL, I am studying how antidepressants affect learning under different environmental conditions and whether positive reinforcement from an enriched environment could be important for their function. They are comparing the cognitive effects of SSRI administration alone and in combination with behavioural activation therapy to monitor and adjust an individual’s daily activities to maximize environmental reinforcement.
BRC Scientific Administrator
I help support experimental medicine studies and carry out associated administration and project management. I very much enjoy being part of this dynamic group of researchers’ and being involved in projects that aim to better the lives of people struggling with mental health issues. I also sit on a number of Departmental People & Culture groups that are working towards achieving a more inclusive and diverse place of work.
As a part of the Clinical Psychopharmacology Group, our work focuses on the role of inflammation in depression and investigating the potential of repurposing statins for the treatment of depression. Their ultimate goal is to understand the underlying pathology of psychiatric disorders and develop new evidence-based treatments.
Pilar Artiach Hortelano
I manage the RELAKS study, which seeks to understand Ketamine’s antidepressant effects using 7T fMRI, eye-tracking, cognitive tasks among other novel techniques. Along my RA role, I have also been a Project Lead on the EDICT project. This project aimed to find strategies to increase participation from ethnically diverse populations in clinical trials. Previous to this, as was an intern at PERL, analysing a 3T fMRI data set looking at the effects of lithium on emotional regulation in healthy participants, with the aim to help understand how this mood stabiliser works in Bipolar Disorder.
I work on a project that tests the efficacy of a novel drug to alleviate symptoms of cognitive difficulties in those recovering from depression. My responsibilities include coordinating study set up, recruitment, prescreening participants, collecting self-report questionnaire information, assessing side effects, and conducting computerised psychological tasks and fMRI investigations. Before this, I worked in the Decision-Making and Action Lab at Oxford University.
I am currently working on the PROGRESS Study, which aims to investigate if Prucalopride, a drug used to treat constipation, can improve emotion processing and cognition in healthy participants who have recovered from depression. I am interested in understanding the mechanisms of depression and finding alternative treatments, particularly in instances of treatment-resistance. I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology at the National University of Singapore and worked as a research assistant there for a year, before pursuing a Master’s degree in Psychiatric Research at King’s College London.
I am currently working on a project aiming to innovate treatments and assessments for adolescents with depression. I had studied for an undergraduate degree in neuroscience at UCL, before completing a research masters with a greater focus on personality disorders at Yale University. I have always been interested in people’s experience with mental health and the way the brain works, therefore my previous role was a criminal justice recovery caseworker at a mental health charity for women in prisons.