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Dr Fernandes is a Clinical Lecturer and MRC Clinical Research Training Fellow at the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Oxford. She is the Director of Early Brain Science at the Oxford Maternal and Perinatal Health Institute and an Associate Fellow at Green Templeton College. She is a GRID Registrar in Neonatal Medicine at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Dr Fernandes studied Paediatrics (MRCPCH) at Southampton and Oxford. She was awarded her DPhil in Child Psychiatry at Oxford under the supervision of Professors Alan Stein and Paul Ramchandani and received the Clarendon Fund, Exeter Kokil Pathak and the Harold Hyam Wingate Scholarships for her doctoral research. Following post-doctoral research with the INTERGROWTH-21st Project and the INTERBIO-21st Study at Oxford, she was awarded a NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship and the Southampton Biomedical Research Centre Career Track Fellowship for her research in developmental epidemiology at the University of Southampton's MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre. She is currently a Clinical Lecturer at the Department of Paediatrics, sub-specialising in neonatal medicine with special interests in neonatal neurology and neurodevelopmental follow-up. She holds a MRC Postdoctoral Clinical Research Training Fellowship and leads the BRAINENDEVR study.

Dr Fernandes’ work has previously been recognised by the Medical Research Council, National Institute of Health Research, National Institutes of Health, USAID,  the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organisation, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Neonatal Society and the Indian Council of Medical Research. She has published numerous scientific papers on the development and measurement of early brain function, and is regularly involved in capacity development, advocacy and engagement activities within the UK and internationally.  She holds honorary research positions at NDWRH, Oxford; the University of Southampton; WINDREF, Grenada and the University of Turku.  Dr Fernandes contributes, in advisory capacities, to the WHO’s Early Child Development Initiative, and the Bill & Melinda Gates’ Foundation HBGD Knowledge Initiative. She is the research lead for NeoTRIPS UK and a NED at the Caribbean Centre for Child Neurodevelopment.

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Dr Michelle Fernandes

MBBS, MRCPCH, DPhil (Oxon)

Clinical Lecturer, MRC Clinical Research Training Fellow

  • Clinical Lecturer & MRC Clinical Research Training Fellow in Paediatrics
  • Director of Early Brain Science, Oxford Maternal and Perinatal Health Institute, University of Oxford
  • GRID Registrar in Neonatal Medicine, the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford
  • Honorary Research Fellow in Perinatal Health, Nuffield Department of Women's & Reproductive Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  • Research Fellow, The Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation, Grenada, West Indies
  • Visiting Researcher, Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Turku, Turku, Finland


  • No SDGs without ECD: Over 80% of early childhood delays are preventable if identified and corrected during the first 3 years of life. My research investigates novel methods to maximise the biological benefits of this 'golden window' of neuronal plasticity at scale.
  • Understanding the interplay between factors affecting brain development during the first 1000 days of life
  • Developing tools to better measure neurodevelopmental outcomes in young children, internationally and at scale, towards developing a universal surveillance system for the early detection of children, globally, at risk of delays in development
  • Evaluating scalable, family-centred interventions to promote/rescue development in young children

My Research

The first 1000 days of life, from conception to age 2, are foundational to brain development. During this period, the developing brain is highly sensitive to environmental influences, both positive and adverse, with multi-system and enduring effects through the lifecourse. Approximately one in five children under five globally is at risk of developmental delay. Owing to a lack of screening resources, many do not receive the interventions they require within this golden window of brain development because they are only identified at school age or later.

My research group applies a ‘whole-child’ approach to early brain development involving the pillars of early identification, intervention and impact, towards making a positive difference to the most vulnerable children, internationally, at risk of developmental delay. We aim to (i) understand the mechanisms that drive both typical and atypical brain development during the first 1000 days, (ii) develop novel, scalable tools to identify children at risk as early as possible, (iii) investigate innovative intervention strategies to mitigate this risk, and, where possible, rescue neurodevelopment and (iv) work with international partners to develop regional and local capacity in early child development surveillance and intervention.  

We have previously developed a novel, low-cost, international toolkit (the INTERGROWTH-21st Neurodevelopment Assessment, INTER-NDA) for the simplified and rapid identification of 2-year-olds at risk of developmental delay by non-specialist assessors. This has been applied in over 30,000 children from 21 countries. We are currently extending this work to (i) the construction of similar toolkits for newborns and infants, (ii) developing a risk-profile estimator (BRAINENDEVR) for the screening of all children globally for their risk of developmental delay at key, early points of contact with health services and (iii) designing a holistic “whole-child” intervention to promote early brain development during the first 1000 days. We carry out our work in partnership with research groups, institutions and NGOs in 21 countries which, together, are home to 43% of the world’s under-5 population.  

The overarching goal is to translate our developmental understanding of the early brain into sustainable strategies to help most, if not all children, globally achieve their full developmental potential by age 2.


The INTER-NDA Assessment

© University of Oxford
The INTER-NDA is a standardised assessment of cognitive, language, motor skills and behaviour for preschoolers. Its norms are the only international prescriptive standards of early child development constructed according to the WHO's guidelines. It can be administered rapidly, at very low costs, by non-specialist stanzdardized assessors. To date, it has been applied to assess over 30,000 children from 21 countries across 5 continents. It has been used for research, clinical and health programme surveillance purposes.