Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience



The Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Group investigates the development of social cognition, peer influence and decision making in the adolescent brain, and adolescent mental health. We run large scale behavioural studies in schools and in the lab, as well as neuroimaging studies, with adolescents and adults. The group is led by Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, who is based at the University of Cambridge and has an honorary professorship at the ICN.

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

Group Leader




Sarah Jane Blakemore

Developmental Research

The main focus of our research is the development of social cognition and decision making during human adolescence. 

Group Members

Post-Doctoral Research Fellows

Saz Ahmed 


Dr Saz Ahmed completed her PhD in Psychology at Royal Holloway University of London, during which she focussed on the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying implicit and explicit emotion regulation across adults and adolescents, and how they vary with aggression. Dr Ahmed is working as a postdoctoral research associate on the MYRIAD project. This is a Wellcome Trust-funded project assessing the feasibility of teaching mindfulness in schools, and the ways in which mindfulness might promote mental health and resilience in adolescents. For more information about this project, please visit http://myriadproject.org/.

See more about me

PhD Students

Jack Andrews

Jack Andrews

Jack is currently on the UCL Four-Year MRC PhD Programme in Neuroscience and Mental Health under the supervision of Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and Professor Nichola Raihani. His research focuses on risk taking, social rejection and mental health during adolescence. In 2019, Jack spent time as a visiting scholar, funded by a Bogue Research Fellowship, at the University of Oregon with Dr Kate Mills and he also undertook a policy secondment in child mental health at the UK’s Department for Education. Previously, Jack studied Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, completing his final year research project within Professor Emily Holmes’s group at the MRC Cognition and Brain Science Unit. Jack was awarded the UCL PALS Sully Scholarship for his PhD upgrade.

Jovita Leung

Jovita Leung

Jovita studied her MSc in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at UCL. She was the Research Assistant in the Blakemore Lab and has previously worked as an Assistant Psychologist at the Psychological Medicine Team at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Jovita is currently on the ICN PhD programme in Cognitive Neuroscience under the supervision of Professor Blakemore. Her research focuses on the development of affective cognitive control, emotion regulation and their relationships with mental wellbeing during adolescence. Jovita also works on the MYRIAD project, a collaboration with University of Cambridge and University of Oxford investigating the impact of mindfulness training on resilience and mental wellbeing. For more information about the project, please visit http://myriadproject.org/.

Research Assistants

Blanca Piera Pi-Sunyer

Blanca Piera Pi-Sunyer

Blanca completed her MRes in Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL, where she developed her research project under the supervision of Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and Dr Gabriele Chierchia. Specifically, Blanca assisted with a study that assessed social influence in adolescence and its effect on prosocial behavior. Blanca is currently working as a research assistant for the lab. Her tasks include several administrative functions as well as assisting with the execution of different research projects from the lab.

Kirsten Thomas

Kirsten Thomas

Kirsten completed her MRes in Cognitive Neuroscience at the ICN. She conducted her research project within the Department of Clinical and Movement Neurosciences, where she currently works part-time as a Study Recruiter for the ReCAPS study. She also works as a Research Assistant with Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore at the University of Cambridge. She is working on a project investigating the neurocognitive markers of social isolation, as well as conducting research reviewing emotion recognition in adolescents. 

Affiliate Lab Members and Collaborators 

Vaughan Bell

Vaughan Bell

Dr Vaughan Bell is a Senior Clinical Lecturer in the Division of Psychiatry, Faculty of Brain Sciences, and is a Principal Clinical Psychologist in the Psychological Interventions Clinical for outpatients with psychosis at the Maudsley Hospital. His research focuses on the cognitive neuropsychiatry of psychosis, delusions and hallucinations.

Iroise Dumontheil


Dr Iroise Dumontheil is since Oct 2012 a Lecturer at the Department of Psychological Sciences at Birkbeck, University of London. She previously spent time as a postdoc in the labs of John Duncan at the MRC-CBU in Cambridge, Torkel Klingberg at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and here in the Developmental Group at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL. The main topic of her research is the development and adult function of social and executive functions associated with the rostral prefrontal cortex. To investigate this, she combines different methods: behavioural assessments, genetics, and structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging. Iroise was awarded the BPS Spearman Medal 2015 for her early career research. 

Lucy Foulkes
Lucy Foulkes

Dr Lucy Foulkes completed her PhD in Mental Health at UCL, during which she focussed on individual differences in social reward processing and their association with clinical disorders. In Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s lab, Lucy is working as a postdoctoral research associate on the MYRIAD project. This is a Wellcome Trust-funded project assessing the feasibility of teaching mindfulness in schools, and the ways in which mindfulness might promote mental health and resilience in adolescents. More information about this project.

Anne-Lise Goddings


Dr Anne-Lise Goddings is a Postdoctoral Clinical Training fellow at the UCL Institute of Child Health. After completing her medical training at Cambridge University and UCL, Dr Goddings has undertaken her paediatric clinical training in London alongside pursuing her research interests in Adolescent Health and Development. In 2015, she completed her PhD at UCL focusing on the role of puberty in adolescent brain development, supervised by Professor Russell Viner at the UCL Institute of Child Health and Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. Dr Goddings was awarded the 2016 British Psychology Society Doctoral Award for her PhD research. Dr Goddings currently collaborates with leading groups around the world analysing longitudinal datasets of adolescent neurodevelopment and relate structural and functional MRI changes in the brain to changes in behaviour over this time. She continues to work as a practicing clinician in Central London alongside conducting her research.

Anne-Laura van Harmelen


Dr Anne-Laura van Harmelen is a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow at the University of Cambridge where she investigates the cognitive and neurobiological effects of child maltreatment. Anne-Laura completed her PhD in December 2013 at Leiden University in the Netherlands under the supervision of Bernet Elzinga. After finishing her PhD she moved to Cambridge to work with Professor Ian Goodyer at the Department of Psychiatry. During this time, she was awarded a two year Rubicon Fellowship from the Netherlands Society for Scientific Research.

Kathryn Mills

Kathryn Mills

Dr Kate Mills is a postdoc in the Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab at University of Oregon, working with Jenn Pfeifer and Nick Allen. Her current work focuses on examining longitudinal brain development in relation to mental health and social cognition in adolescent girls. She was previously a graduate student in the Blakemore Lab as part of the NIMH-UCL joint doctoral program in neuroscience, and completed her PhD in 2015. Kate was awarded the British Neuroscience Association Graduate Prize 2015 for her PhD research.

Stefano Palminteri


During his PhD thesis at the Brain and Spine Institute (Paris) and his first post-doc at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris) Dr Stefano Palminteri studied reinforcement learning and decision making. More precisely he focused on the description of the computational, neuro-anatomical and neuro-chemical bases underlying these processes in healthy subjects (basic neuroscience) and if and how an impairment in these processes could explain neuropsychiatric symptoms (computational psychiatry). Dr Palminteri’s research is highly interdisciplinary and involves fMRI, behavioural testing of neurological patients (Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases, Tourette's syndrome, brain tumours) and psychiatric patients (obsessive-compulsive disorder), and computational modelling. Dr Palminteri worked as a Marie Curie Research Fellow in the Blakemore Lab from 2014-2017. He explored the development of reinforcement learning and decision-making during adolescence. 

Marteen Speekenbrink


Dr Maarten Speekenbrink is a Lecturer in Mathematical Psychology at the Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences, University College London. His main research interests are in the areas of human learning and decision making. His work generally involves a combination of mathematical modelling and behavioural experiments. He also has a strong interest in psychological methodology, including the application of mixed-effects and dynamic (state-space) models, Bayesian statistics, and optimal experimental design.

Emma Kilford

Emma Kilford

Dr Emma Kilford carried out her PhD at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience under the supervision of Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and Dr Vaughan Bell. Her PhD research examined the development of cognitive control and its integration with social cognitive and motivational-affective processing during adolescence, using a combination of genetic, cognitive and computational research techniques. After her PhD, Dr Kilford worked as a postdoctoral research associate on the project '”Developing a scalable treatment for depression in rural South Africa', funded by a GCRF Global Impact Acceleration Award, a project she remains actively involved in. Dr Kilford is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the UCL Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology working on a translational research project titled “Treating depression with self-compassion in virtual reality”, funded by a NIHR i4i Mental Health Challenge Award.