I started my DPhil at St John's College funded by a Medical Research Council Doctoral Training Award in 2013. I first joined the Molnar lab as an MSc in Neuroscience student in 2011-2012 and started my DPhil in 2013, jointly with the Monaco Group in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics working on the KIAA0319 project funded by a Wellcome Trust Programme Grant. My primary interests lie on the biological basis of the human language faculty and the related reading capacity, focusing on the genetic and neurodevelopmental mechanisms which underlie these complex traits. Having started my academic formation in biolinguistics and cognitive science, I am also interested in the cognitive and evolutionary basis of the emergence of these traits.
My research focuses on uncovering the function of the dyslexia-susceptibility candidate genes KIAA0319 and KIAA0319L during the development of the cortex, in conjunction with Dr Isabel Martinez-Garay, Dr Antonio Velayos-Baeza and Melissa Bailey. These genes have been linked to dyslexia by both independent association studies and functional evidence, and are the only two members of this family. More recently, they have also been implicated in the co-morbidity between reading and language impairment.
Current evidence suggests KIAA0319 and KIAA0319L mediate neuronal migration during the development of the cortex, in parallel with other dyslexia-susceptibility candidate genes. Combined with early post-mortem and neuroimaging studies in human brains, this has led to the hypothesis that impaired neuronal migration may be a neurobiological antecedent to dyslexia. Our work uses transgenic mouse lines to uncover the precise mechanisms through which this may occur and the potential functional degeneracy that may operate between these two genes.
Embryonic mouse cortex
Born and raised in Brazil, I moved to the UK for a gap year after finishing school and have been living here almost ever since. Following a spell in Italy and a few years in the working world, travelling and learning foreign languages, I decided it was time to return to the academic world and went to the University of York where I gained a distinction in Theoretical Linguistics in 2010. I then moved to Cambridge for an MPhil at King's College, supported by an Isaac Newton Trust award, where I became progressively more interested in the brain and cognitive sciences more generally. My work, supervised by Prof Ian Roberts, focused on the evolution of the human language faculty and investigated potential parallels in cognitive computations in other domains of cognition, work for which I was awarded a Distinction.
The shift from biolinguistics to experimental neuroscience became the next logical step and I then moved to Oxford in 2011 for an MSc in Neuroscience at Oriel College, supported by the Medical Research Council, where I worked on single particle tracking in synapse development with Prof Nigel Emptage before joining the labs of Prof Molnar and Prof Monaco. Following the MSc, I undertook a Research Assistantship during 2012-2013 with Dr Antonio Velayos-Baeza at the Monaco Group in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics working both on the KIAA0319 project and on the neurogenetic basis of the neurodegenerative movement disorder Chorea-Acanthocytosis, in a project funded by the Advocacy for Neuroacanthocytosis.