I completed my BA in Psychology at the University of Copenhagen, followed by an MSc in Cognitive Neuropsychology at University College London. I completed my PhD in Psychology at the Centre for Brain & Cognitive Development at Birkbeck in 2008. Since then I have completed two externally funded fellowships at King’s College London and at the University of Essex. In September 2016 I took up my MRC Career Development Award at the University of Oxford.
I have received funding for my research from the British Academy, UK Medical Research Council, UK Economic and Social Research Council, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Autism Speaks.
My own infant scientists
MRC Career Development Fellow
My research focuses on the development of attention and executive functions in infancy and early childhood. I study these questions longitudinally using behavioural and neuroimaging techniques.
Infants are able to explore and learn from the world from very early on using their emerging attentional skills. I believe that attentional skills are some of the basic building blocks of many later skills, such as the ability to learn new things effectively. To investigate this question, I study how individual differences in basic attentional skills during infancy develop over time and what consequences this development has for children later on. I am particularly interested in how this early development may allow us to predict children’s later cognitive functioning, social skills and school performance. In collaboration with Dr Silvia Rigato at the University of Essex, I am currently investigating how developmental trajectories in basic attentional and social functions during the first year of life relate to cognitive and social outcomes.
Executive functions are abilities that allow us to control and guide our actions in everyday life. Some of these abilities involve keeping important things in memory while solving a problem - for example doing mental arithmetic or reading a set of instructions. Other executive functions help us stop habits and overcome temptations when these are not good for us. In a way, executive functions allow us to have some control over our lives, instead of being completely ruled by habits and circumstances. Unsurprisingly, young children's executive functions are far from perfect - they struggle to keep things in memory, to plan for themselves, and to resist temptation. Children improve rapidly in these skills between 3 and 5 years of age and continue to improve right up until adulthood. However, we know relatively little about how children get their very first executive function abilities during the first 2 years of life. I am very interested in this question, especially in how we can best measure executive functions in infants and toddlers, and how we can track different developmental trajectories in these skills over time.
The overarching theme of my research is to understand the different ways that children develop from birth up until the school years. By increasing fundamental knowledge on how these trajectories unfold, and how some children start to experience problems in specific domains (e.g., attention, executive functions), we can begin to look at the mechanisms behind this development. I believe that this is an important first step in developing interventions that can help children get onto an optimal trajectory at the earliest possible point.
Rigato S. et al, (2020), Social Development