BlackBrainSciShowcase 2022 – Meet the Speakers

Women of the Wohl are excited to host our third round of the BlackBrainSciShowcase! Speakers who identify as Black researchers in neuroscience and neuro-related research areas will showcase their work to the King’s College London research community in a 45 min seminar. Come along to hear from a wide range of different areas within neuroscience from different career stage researchers! 

Each seminar is then followed by a 45 min informal Q&A discussion aimed at students (undergraduate, masters, PhD) and early career stage researchers. Although the Q&A discussions are organised with these groups in mind, all other King’s staff are welcome to attend. The Q&A session will be an opportunity to ask the speakers anything about their career journey and their lived experience working in research, in a relaxed, informal setting. 

All King’s College London staff and students are welcome to attend these events: all career levels and all race and gender identities are welcome. 

Each event will be chaired by the friendly Women of the Wohl teamWe will be making sure everyone is treated with respect, feels welcome, safe & comfortable and that everyone gets a fair chance to speak and ask their questions. You will be able to ask your questions at the appropriate times using audio or the chat function in Microsoft Teams or in-person at the hybrid seminar.

We understand that not everyone finds it easy to ask questions in front of an audience or think of questions on the spot, which is why we’ve also created the option for you to anonymously submit your career-related questions for our speakers in advance here.

Programme of Speakers

Week 1 – Thursday 03 November

Jay-Bethenny Gallimore
King’s College London

“Assessing mental health stigma and help-seeking among young people in Barbados: development of a strategy and practical experiences”

Background: Stigma related to mental health is an important barrier to help-seeking, and it has a greater negative impact in young people compared to older adults. These influences have not been much examined within the Caribbean context, where there is a lack of mental health research, yet growing concerns of increasing rates of mental illness and stigma.
This presentation will discuss a project which investigates young people’s mental health stigma and help-seeking in Barbados, and provide initial reflections of its implementation.

Methods: The project employs a mixed methods design. Three hundred and fifty young people in Barbados aged 18-24 years will be recruited to complete an online survey exploring the relationship between public stigma and help-seeking using several culturally adapted and validated measures. Semi-structured interviews will also be conducted with twenty young people who have lived experiences of mental health difficulties/a condition exploring how their experiences of stigma may have influenced help-seeking.

Results: The survey and interview guide has been piloted with young Barbadians, which informed the refinement of the strategy. Data collection for both the survey and interviews are ongoing.  This presentation will discuss the experience of developing and piloting the data collection materials and the challenges and strengths of conducting the study.

Conclusion: A strategy has been developed to gain an understanding of how mental health stigma and help-seeking operates for young people in Barbados. The findings of this project will allow for the complex phenomena of stigma and help-seeking to be explored in a culturally appropriate manner. This can support the development of future stigma and help-seeking research in the Caribbean, and inform resource development to promote mental health education.

About the Speaker
Beth Gallimore is a PhD student at King’s College London (KCL) in the Health Service and Population Research Department within the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN). Her PhD project is titled “Mental Health among young people in Barbados: stigma and help-seeking”, supervised by Dr Tatiana Salisbury and Dr Petra Gronholm.

Before starting her PhD, she completed her MSc in Psychology and Neuroscience of Mental Health at King’s College London, in which she achieved a Distinction. During her Master’s Degree, she worked as a Research Assistant at KCL, helping to develop training materials for research teams in Kenya and The Gambia as part of a maternal mental health project (PRECISE-DYAD), under the guidance of Dr Tatiana Salisbury.  She has also worked for the UK mental health charity Mind, where she has gained experience working with and supporting individuals with mental health challenges.

Beth is passionate about global mental health, with a particular research interest in Caribbean mental health stemming from her own heritage, and stigma and discrimination. Beth also has a deep love for the arts. She has played the piano for 17 years, and obtained a 1st Class Undergraduate Bachelor of Music Degree (BMus) in Music Performance at the University of Chichester Conservatoire, specialising in Classical Piano.  


Oluwapelumi Ajayi
King’s College London

“Effect of Colour on State of Mind Within Healthcare Environment”

Objectives: This study will explore the emotional response to different colour environments and determine if there is a difference in response if this environment is physical or virtual, to inform the use of colour in healthcare environments.

Methods: Based on previous rapid review data, we will be looking specifically at red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and purple colours. The research will be look at the Virtual Reality space and the physical space. An empty seminar room within Guy’s hospital will be used for the physical environment, by projecting the specific colour on a plain white screen. The virtual environment will be projected through the Oculus Rift headset in a video format, produced using a home design software called Live Home 3D. The participants will experience each colour environment for five minutes, and then reflect on their current emotional state, followed by a three-minute interval.

A single 2-part questionnaire will enable collecting primary data general information, as well as reflection on the coloured environments. We aim to recognise a pattern in emotional responses using a 7-point semantic differential scale, with seven bipolar adjectives e.g., “happy/unhappy.” (Engvall, Norrby & Sandstedt, 2004).

Results: A Covid-19 risk assessment, ensuring safe research environment during the pandemic, was conducted which has led to some delay in study intervention and data collection. Based on the rapid review conducted (Alam & Nasseripour, 2020), our working hypotheses are that warm colours (red, orange, yellow) are expected to elicit excitement and feelings of stimulation, whilst cool colours (blue, green, purple) are expected to elicit feelings of relaxation and calm (Yildrim, Hidayetoglu & Ozkan, 2011). The responses in the virtual reality space and physical space are expected to be similar.

Conclusions: Data analysis will follow and include both a quantitative and qualitative approach, with a deductive open research methodology, imbedding reflexivity.

About the Speaker
Hi, I’m Oluwapelumi Ajayi (she/her) and I am in 3rd year of medicine at King’s College London. I am a recipient of the gold award from the Cambridge INSPIRE2INVOLVE programme which saw me successfully launch my sixth form’s first peer support group. During my second year at university, I gained both the King’s Global Experience Award and the King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship. The latter gave me the opportunity to dive into the exciting world of Arts-Based Research while working with Dr Nasseripour and Dr Smyth-Zahra. I am currently running a pilot study exploring Arts-Based methodologies and mental well-being in young black people as part of my course. I am very interested in the role of the arts in the maintenance of health whether that be physical, mental or social. 

LinkedIn: Oluwapelumi Ajayi

Week 2 – Tuesday 08 November

Laura Aiwanse Odemwingie 
King’s College London

Investigating the molecular basis for selective vulnerability in FET-linked Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Fronto-temporal dementia (FTD)

FET proteins are a conserved family of RNA binding proteins generally located in the nucleus, they include, Fused in Sarcoma (FUS or TLS), Ewing Sarcoma (EWS) and the TATA-Box Binding Protein Associated Factor 15 (TAF15).
Both genetic and functional dysfunction of these proteins have been linked to pathological phenotypes in neurodegenerative diseases. For example, in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), FUS mutations lead to cytoplasmic mislocalisation and inclusions of FUS in neurons and glia cells. While in Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), the inclusions are made up of all three FET proteins including the transport receptor TNPO1; in the case of FTD the mechanism of mislocalisation is not mutation dependent, however the molecular cause for mislocalisation and aggregation remains unknown.
Although there is evidence for EWS and TAF-15 behaving in a similar manner to FUS, their exact physiological features in health and pathogenic features in disease are poorly characterized in both ALS and FTD. In addition, the FET expression patterns have not yet been mapped in the FTD affected CNS and auto- and cross- regulation of the FET proteins have been identified as contributing to the disease phenotype, implicating the importance of investigating their relationships. This project will aim to characterize the temporospatial expression of all three FET proteins in 3-, 12- and 18-month-old non-transgenic C57B6 mouse brains using a combination of high-throughput microscopy, for protein localization and quantification and RT-qPCR for analysis of gene expression. This will not only give us insights into the physiological expression patterns but also form the basis for a comparative analysis of FET expression patterns in vulnerable and disease resistant brain regions of FUS-ALS, FET-FTD patient tissues as well as healthy controls.

About the Speaker
Laura Aiwanse Odemwingie is a second year MRC DTP Student in Basic & Clinical Neuroscience at King’s. She joined King’s after completing her MSci in Medical Biochemistry at the University of Bristol. Her interest in neuroscience first sparked when she completed a summer scholarship placement with the North Bristol NHS Trust Research Foundation on ‘Biomarkers for brain tumours’ with consultant Prof. Kathreena Kurian. Throughout her time at Bristol, she gravitated towards Neurobiochemistry, in particular Neurodegeneration and then went on to do her MSci project on synaptic plasticity and spine morphogenesis in Alzheimer’s disease with Dr Jonathan Hanley.

As a result, she decided to remain within neurodegeneration. Currently, Laura works on mapping the RNA and protein expression patterns of FET proteins at single cell resolution throughout the mouse CNS and ageing. This will be followed by a comparison in human healthy, FUS-ALS and FET-FTD tissue to uncover the contribution of dysfunctional protein homeostasis in disease.

Supervisors: Dr Marc-David Ruepp and Dr Caroline Vance.

Twitter: @LOdemwingie
LinkedIn: Laura Aiwanse Odemwingie

Dr. Martin Osanebi Osugo
King’s College London

Subchronic dopamine antagonism regulates reward processing and behaviour in healthy humans

Background: Antipsychotic drugs are the mainstay of treatment for schizophrenia. However, they are associated with numerous undesirable side effects including weight gain and negative symptoms. These side effects are disabling and may lead to treatment discontinuation. Although all antipsychotics share the mechanism of dopamine receptor antagonism, the neural mechanisms underlying these adverse effects are unclear. This limits efforts to ameliorate them. Studies in clinical populations indicate that the disruption of reward circuits through dopaminergic antagonism may explain these important adverse effects, however the effects of the disease and other confounders are difficult to disentangle from antipsychotic use. By administering amisulpride, a selective D2/D3 antagonist, to heathy volunteers we aimed to demonstrate the underlying neural mechanism and the resultant clinical adverse effects of antipsychotics. We hypothesised that amisulpride would decrease reward response to monetary rewards and induce negative symptoms, but that it would increase the hedonic response to unhealthy foods and lead to associated weight gain.

Methods: We used a double-blind, within-subject, crossover, placebo-controlled study design. Healthy individuals received amisulpride and placebo for 7 days each, in randomised order. Amisulpride doses were: day 1:200mg, day 2:300mg, days 3-7:400mg. Outcome measures were assessed at baseline and following administration of amisulpride and placebo using validated fMRI paradigms and blinded raters.

Results: 37 healthy volunteers were enrolled, 25 of whom  completed all outcome measures (mean age 26.5, 60% female). We found that amisulpride induced negative symptoms compared to placebo (p= 0.024), and also caused reduced BOLD activation upon receipt of a monetary reward in key cortical and subcortical reward regions, with large effect sizes (-0.66 to -0.8). We also found that amisulpride led to signifcantly increased activation over placebo to high calorie foods in overlapping cortical reward regions and in the gustatory cortex, but did not lead to significant weight gain.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that disruption of reward mechanisms underlies important adverse effects of antipsychotics, and support models which place deficits in dopaminergic neurotransmission as key to negative symptoms.  They also confirm dopamine’s central role in reward processing, and show opposing effects of dopaminergic modulation on reward processing in overlapping brain regions using different stimuli.

About the Speaker
Dr Martin Osugo is a clinical research fellow and doctoral student at King’s College London. He completed his primary medical degree at the University of Glasgow, qualifying in 2017 with an MBChB and an intercalated BSc in Psychological Medicine. After completing his medical foundation training as an NIHR academic foundation doctor in west London, he moved to King’s College London to begin his PhD on the neurobiology of negative symptoms in schizophrenia under the supervision of Professor Oliver Howes. His PhD work aims to investigate how disorders in neurotransmitter systems such as dopamine and serotonin contribute to symptoms of psychosis, by using in vivo neuroimaging with MRI and PET coupled with pharmacological challenges. He complements his research work with clinical work as a specialty doctor in a community mental healthcare team at the Maudsley Hospital, focusing on treatment resistant psychosis. His interest in psychotic disorders is partly informed by the over-representation of Afro-Caribbean people in prevalence of these diseases.

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