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13 October 2020

CANTAB Research Grant assists research into defining cognitive phenotypes in individuals with CNVs associated with neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders

Ciara Molloy recently spoke to us about the impact that receiving one of the three 2020 CANTAB Research Grant prizes will have on her research: ‘The impact of rare copy number variants on cognition: Defining cognitive phenotypes in individuals with CNVs associated with neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders.’

Let us know a little about yourself?

I am absolutely delighted to have been awarded one of the three CANTAB Research Grant awards. I am currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Autism and Rare Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Group, led by Prof. Louise Gallagher at Trinity College Dublin. My research interests lie in understanding neurodevelopmental disorders and characterizing rare genetic conditions. Our research group applies a multi-methodological approach to examine neurodevelopmental disorders and genetic conditions by examining genetics, cognition, behaviour, clinical phenotype and how they relate to brain structure and function.

What impact will winning the CANTAB Research Grant have on your research?

This CANTAB Research Grant has enabled me to use specific measures of cognition in a study of individuals with rare copy number variants (CNVs) known to be associated with the development of autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. These are complex and highly heterogeneous disorders, both phenotypically and aetiologically. This variability makes it difficult to encompass all aspects of each disorder when examining a disorder as one whole group. One goal of my research is to try to better understand and describe the heterogeneity within these disorders. I will use a set of CANTAB tasks to measure cognitive function across four domains including attention, executive function, memory and social cognition. I hope to define subgroups of different cognitive phenotypes, and assess whether these subgroups are explained by CNVs or diagnosis. The advantage of using the CANTAB is that the tasks I have selected have all been used in previous studies of autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia.

What is the main aim of your research?

This study will help to better understand the impact of rare CNVs on cognition, and will hopefully improve our understanding of the relationships between cognitive and clinical profiles and underlying biological mechanisms that are disrupted in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders, which may have both clinical and educational applications.

What’s been your experience of working with Cambridge Cognition so far?

The Cambridge Cognition team has been very supportive throughout the beginning stage of this study. They organised a meeting to introduce me to their Science Team and we discussed my study goals and the tasks I chose for the study. They also helped me set up my CANTAB account and software. I am really looking forward to using the CANTAB in my research!

Tags : cantab testimonial | cantab | cognitive testing | cognition | cantab research grant

Author portrait

Ciara Molloy, Postdoctoral Researcher at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.