UCL News


Launch of the UCL Centre for Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience (CDCN)

2 July 2010

UCL has established a centre to coordinate developmental cognitive neuroscience research.

The virtual centre - dedicated to understanding the structure and function of the developing brain and mind - will bring together all staff with an interest in neurocognitive development; facilitate collaboration between basic and clinical scientists; create opportunities for translational research; raise the profile of developmental, behavioural and cognitive neuroscience research with a view to securing major funding; and provide high quality teaching and training in this rapidly emerging interdisciplinary speciality within neuroscience.

UCL researchers have an international reputation for excellence in the field of neurocognitive development . The Centre will, however, further develop and facilitate cross-disciplinary cooperation among the full spectrum of UCL staff involved in research in this area, thereby maximising the potential for collaboration.

Faraneh Vargha-Khadem, the Centre's Director and Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, said: "There is now greater awareness of the many factors that influence healthy brain development and optimise recovery from early brain damage. With its abundance of multidisciplinary expertise in basic science, and opportunities for access to paediatric patient populations through its health partners, UCL stands in a unique position to strengthen and expand its leadership role on the world stage in the area of developmental cognitive neuroscience. This new centre will assist in addressing one aspect of UCL's Grand Challenge of Human Wellbeing."

At UCL a number of collaborative projects in developmental cognitive neuroscience are underway, including a study between a research group at the UCL Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, led by Professor Eleanor Maguire, and the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Unit at UCL Institute of Child Health, led by Professor Faraneh Vargha-Khadem. This study charts for the first time autobiographical and future imagining of events in children with selective hippocampal damage.

In addition, Dr Nicola Robertson, Reader in Translational Neonatal Medicine at the UCL Institute for Women's Health, has received funding from the MRC to conduct a Phase II clinical trial of xenon neuroprotection as an adjunct therapy to therapeutic hypothermia in infants with perinatal asphyxia, using brain metabolites as a surrogate marker of outcome.

Another highlight from recent research supported by the MRC includes a collaboration between cardiac intensive care specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Unit at ICH. This project led to the discovery that between 28-44% of children who have undergone neonatal treatment for cardiac or cardiorespiratory disease have selective memory problems in association with hippocampal pathology resulting from hypoxic/ischaemic injury.

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience - a new journal specifically dedicated to cognitive, affective and social developmental neuroscience - has just been launched. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience), Ronald E Dahl (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), Uta Frith (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) and Daniel S Pine (NIMH) are co-editors of this journal.

Commenting on this cross-cutting initiative, UCL Vice-Provost (Health) Professor Sir John Tooke said: "The Centre holds great promise. UCL is already a leading institution in the field of neuroscience. With the advance of techniques like functional MRI, research has enriched our understanding of the interrelations among developmental changes in cognitive, memory, perceptual, emotional and motor processes, and in the brain's anatomy and physiology, and the interaction with environmental factors driving development. There is no doubt that this virtual centre will raise UCL's profile as a leading institute in the study of cognitive processes and their neurological underpinnings."

The Centre will be launched with a lecture symposium on 12 July 2010 at the UCL Institute of Child Health between 2-6pm. The symposium will be opened by Professor Tooke and Dr Jane Collins, Chief Executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Trust, and closed by the President and Provost of UCL, Professor Malcolm Grant.

Those interested in attending the event are invited to email cdcn@ucl.ac.uk.