My fascination with the brain started as a teen when following a head injury a neighbor became paralyzed. He was fully conscious, able to hear, think, reason, even cry, but unable to move or speak. His only means of communication was to move his eyes. I was in college studying psychology by the time I understood that he had spent 30+ years in a pseudocoma and would today be diagnosed with Locked-in-Syndrome (LIS) and a simple MRI would show he'd sustained an injury to the pons region of his brainstem.
My interest in the brain or what is now called neuroscience continues, but my work focuses on neuropsychiatric disorders. I've been fortunate to work in some fantastic academic institutions and collaborate and learn from incredible researchers and clinicians. My principal area of interest is mood and anxiety disorders across the lifespan. I work at the Stanford School of Medicine and the VA Palo Alto in California. As the daughter and granddaughter of a Veteran, the research I'm involved in with Veterans is very rewarding.
I have a special interest in sleep particularly disrupted sleep and insomnia. Disrupted sleep is a well-established risk factor for the onset, persistence, and recurrence of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Insomnia affects almost one in two people worldwide, and thankfully not all of those affected by disrupted sleep experience mood and anxiety, but current treatment options are limited.
I am currently conducting research into insomnia as part of a Psychiatry Ph.D. at Newcastle University's School of Medicine, under the mentorship of A/Professor Lisa Lampe MBBS, PhD and A/Professor Chris Gordon, RN, PhD at the Woolcock Institute My thesis is examining the application of virtual reality (VR) to enhance circadian clock resetting by delivering wavelengths of light associated with sunset and sunrise and in tandem addressing factors that commonly exacerbate insomnia like rumination and anxiety by incorporating a mindfulness-based therapeutic module into the VR modules.
I'm passionate about distilling and disseminating the latest academic research findings on neuroscience and mental health to the general public. I'm the editor of the Briefing Books initiative by the Association for Behavioral & Cognitive Therapies, which provides free downloadable e-books on topics such as Suicide and Gun Violence. I'm a proud member of the National Association of Science Writers as their members are committed to accessible, and whenever possible free, evidence-based information is a core value.
I see myself as a global citizen, having grown up in Portugal, and lived and worked in the US, UK, and Australia. My children, Jack, Luke, and Ruby, and my husband of 20+ years, Bob - are my greatest source of pride and joy.
Thank you for reading my story.