Meet The Team

Principal Investigator

Clare Kelly



PhD Students

Jivesh Ramduny

Mélanie Garcia

Daniel McLoone

Research Assistants

Andrew Breen


Brynja Gunnarsdóttir (MSc Student 2019-2020)

Brynja completed her undergraduate studies with first class with distinction in Pharmacology from the University of Iceland in 2017, and a year in the Mathematics BSc in 2018 from the University of
Iceland. She graduated with a MSc in Neuroscience with a first class with distinction at Trinity
College Dublin in Ireland in 2020, having completed my MSc thesis under Clare Kelly’s supervision. Her thesis led to a publication:

Gunnarsdóttir, B., Zerbi, V., & Kelly, C. (2022). Multimodal gradient mapping of rodent hippocampus. NeuroImage253, 119082.

Brynja’s scientific interests are wide, maybe not surprising given her rather wide background. Her
current main interests are network neuroscience and brain plasticity. She is currently working as a ranger in East Iceland, nature being another important interest of hers, and navigating what the
future might hold. Besides all this, Brynja enjoys yoga, meditation, swimming and obsessively
hunting for good bakeries.

Dr. Brea Chouinard (Post-doctoral Researcher 2016-2018)


Dr. Brea Chouinard’s (MSLP, PhD) research program focuses on understanding the underlying brain mechanisms that lead to the signs and symptoms of ASD-like behaviour, with a special interest in social communication. Dr. Chouinard graduated from the University of Alberta with a Masters in Speech Language Pathology (2002) and PhD in Rehabilitation Science (2016).

Her research expertise includes behavioural and neuroimaging approaches for investigating social communication, language/semantic networks, and working memory. Her research program includes co-development of these components and emphasizes brain-behaviour relationships. Dr. Chouinard worked at Trinity College Dublin on a Marie-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship, mentored by Dr. Clare Kelly (Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience) and Professor Louise Gallagher (Trinity Translational Medicine Institute). Brea’s project aimed to evaluate an intensive computerized working memory training and its influence on working memory and social communication in autistic adolescents. Data collection is now complete and write-up is in progress!

In addition to her Marie-Curie Postdoc and being a Killam Scholar, Brea has received funding from Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions and the CIHR – Autism Researcher Training initiative. Brea’s email is and her Google Scholar Author Profile is available here

Nessa Lahert (Project Student and Research Assistant 2017-2019)


Nessa worked in IMMAlab as a full-time research assistant after graduating with a first class honours Psychology degree from Trinity College Dublin. Her final year thesis explored a novel scoring system for gathering valuable information about social communicative abilities directly from individuals on the autism spectrum. Now completing her primary school teacher training, in her spare time, Nessa is a passionate Gaeilgeoir with a grá for Irish traditional music.

Niamh MacSweeney (Project Student 2017-2018)
Niamh graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2018 with a First Class, joint-honours degree in Psychology and English Literature. Her final year thesis, carried out in IMMAlab, leveraged a novel behavioural assay of coping and investigated its relationship with depressive symptom severity in female adolescents. Niamh is currently completing her PhD, which aims to identify biopsychosocial risk and resilience factors for adolescent depression, at the University of Edinburgh.

Niamh worked as a research assistant at IMMALab from June 2017-September 2018 on a NARSAD funded project investigating the neural correlates of coping and emotion regulation in adolescent depression. She was awarded a Mental Health Research UK PhD Scholarship to support her PhD research at University of Edinburgh. Outside of research, Niamh is a poetry and yoga enthusiast, and enjoys embarking on regular micro-adventures.

Richard O’Conaill (Project Student 2017-2018)
Richard graduated Trinity College Dublin with first class joint honours (Psychology and French) in 2019. He worked as a research assistant in IMMALab in September 2017, and is currently a medical student. Richard’s final year project, which he is currently writing up for publication, investigated memory ability and brain activity in Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as brain activity in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. For his thesis, he conducted a randomised controlled trial which piloted a novel cognitive training program with a group of adolescents on the autistic spectrum. Aside from research, Richard has a passion for singing, and is a regular performer at a number of different music festivals across Ireland.


Patricia Segura
(MSc Student 2017-2018)

Patricia completed her undergraduate studies in Biology at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in 2015. She recently graduated from the MSc in Experimental and Clinical Neurosciences programme at Universität Regensburg, Germany. Patricia worked on her MSc thesis at IMMALab.

The aim of Patirica’s project was to characterize the neural correlates of anxiety symptoms in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) using the autism brain imaging data exchange dataset (ABIDE/II). Her project examined how individual differences in anxiety symptoms relate to inter-individual variation in functional connectivity using resting state fMRI data and anxiety scores; and asked if there are aspects of these brain-behaviour relationships that are unique to ASD or whether they are observed both in individuals with ASD and typically developing controls.

Patricia’s main scientific interest is how the brain grows and how this normal growth is altered in neurodevelopmental disorders such as in ASD. She is currently working as a researcher at the Child Mind Institute, New York. In the future, she would like to pursue a PhD. In her spare time, Patricia enjoys yoga, the outdoors, reading, and eating cheese!

Ailis Dooner (Visiting Student 2018)

Ailis studies Neuroscience and Behaviour at Columbia University in New York City, USA, where she just finished the third year of undergraduate study. She joined IMMALab as a 2018 summer research intern, where she contributed to a project focusing on Autism Spectrum Disorder and self-awareness. Ailis plans to pursue a career in medicine. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and volunteering.

Bailey Jaeger (Visiting Student 2018)


Bailey joined IMMAlab for the summer of 2018 as a visiting research assistant from the University of Notre Dame. She is an undergraduate (4th year) Neuroscience & Behaviour major, interested in studying developmental disabilities and trauma in children. Her project in the IMMALab involved working with the ABIDE-II dataset to understand the neurological relationship between Autism Spectrum Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, looking at the functional connectivity of brain regions implicated in emotion.

Outside of the lab, Bailey is researching Irish reproductive healthcare for a sociology thesis. She loves to read in the sun, sing and perform, and try new restaurants!

HRB Summer Scholars 2018


Our HRB Summer Scholars: Sharon, Anna, and Beth

Anna Birbeck

Anna is a 4th year Psychology student at Trinity College Dublin. She was awarded a Health Research Board Summer Studentship (2018) to support a project investigating the relationship between a real-life and a lab based measure of working memory (WM) in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and how these measures capture change in WM after intensive computerised WM training. Anna is interested in developmental research and hopes to further her experience in this field during the year and after finishing her degree. Apart from research, Anna likes making Spotify playlists, going to the cinema, and trying new foods.

Sharon Eager

Sharon is a final year Psychology student at Trinity College Dublin. She was awarded a Health Research Board Summer Studentship (2018) to work in at IMMALab. Sharon’s project looked at whether people form different first impressions of individuals with autism based solely on short audio clips of their speech, when compared to similar speech samples of individuals without autism. She has developed this project into her final year thesis.  Outside of research, Sharon has a passion for contemporary and ballet dance.

Beth Kellaghan

Beth is a final year Psychology student at Trinity College Dublin. She joined IMMALab as a research volunteer and also secured a HRB summer studentship (2018). Beth is particularly interested in adolescent mental health, and is doing her final year thesis on self-criticism and social support in adolescents with depressive symptoms. She hopes to continue working with young people in the mental health sector upon completing her degree. Aside from research, Beth is a self-confessed foodie, who loves trying new recipes, and wining and dining wherever she travels!