‘I am grateful to the Wellcome Trust for this Early-Career Award, which will allow me to answer the fundamental questions of if and how axons and dendrites communicate with each other during neuronal development.’Dr Ana Dorrego-Rivas
14 September 2023
Dr Ana Dorrego-Rivas and Dr Clementine Edwards receive the Wellcome Early-Career Awards
The 5-year fellowship supports Dr Dorrego-Rivas’ project “Activity-dependent co-ordination of axonal and dendritic maturation” and Dr Edwards’ project “Illuminating a joyless life: A transdiagnostic approach to anhedonia”
Dr Ana Dorrego-Rivas is a postdoctoral researcher at the Matthew Grubb’s laboratory at the Centre for Developmental Neurobiology at the IoPPN. She completed her undergraduate and Master’s in Barcelona, Spain and subsequently received her PhD in Bordeaux, France. In 2022 she was the recipient of the IoPPN Early Career Award. She is currently studying neurotransmitter release strategies in dopaminergic neurons of the mouse olfactory bulb.
Her project “Activity-dependent co-ordination of axonal and dendritic maturation” will examine the interplay between axons and dendrites, two parts of a neuron essential for neuronal functions. The maturation processes of axons and dendrites are individually well understood, however, their potential to influence each other is still understudied.
In olfactory bulbs, an important step of dendritic maturation called “dendritic pruning” occurs at the same time as the same maturation occurs in a specialised region of the axon named the “axon initial segment”. This unique co-occurrence allows Dr Dorrego-Rivas to study how these processes influence each other to shape functional neuronal cells.
Dr Clementine Edwards is a research clinical psychologist and trial coordinator for the AVATAR2 therapy trial at the IoPPN, a novel talking therapy for people hearing distressing voices. The study uses a computer-simulated avatar alongside support from a therapist. She completed her Master’s and PhD in the IoPPN and previously worked at the Oxleas NHS Trust as a Specialist Clinical Psychologist.
The award supports her project “Illuminating a joyless life: A transdiagnostic approach to anhedonia”, which will examine the mechanisms underlying a reduced experience of pleasure (anhedonia). Anhedonia is a significant barrier to recovery in psychosis and depression, and there is currently no effective interventions.
The study will examine how anhedonia experiences vary across psychosis and depression. This will include comprehensive interviews of individuals and machine learning analysis to identify patterns for impactful interventions. The study will also utilise virtual reality to validate the mechanisms of anhedonia, providing a crucial understanding of an under-researched but critical area of recovery. Dr Edwards' project will be a collaboration between IoPPN and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
As a clinician, I have seen the significant barriers to recovery that are presented through a loss of pleasure and enjoyment, this has a huge impact on quality of life and can leave patients and clinical teams feeling very stuck. I am delighted to have been given the opportunity through the Wellcome Early Career Award to shed some light on this area, and identify future targets for psychological interventions.”Dr Clementine Edwards
The Wellcome Early-Career Awards scheme provides funding for early-career researchers from any discipline who are ready to develop their research identity. Through innovative projects, they will deliver shifts in understanding that could improve human life, health and wellbeing. By the end of the award, they will be ready to lead their own independent research programme. The fellowships start in 2024.