Currently, treatment in major depressive disorder (MDD) relies on a trial-and-error approach, with half of patients not responding to their first course of antidepressants. My PhD project used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a form of neuroimaging, to investigate the potential of neural signatures related to emotional biases, for predicting and understanding what distinguishes people whose depression improves in primary care from those where this is not the case. As part of my PhD, I also contributed to a National Institute for Health and Care Research-funded clinical trial exploring the feasibility of a novel computerised decision support algorithm to provide antidepressant treatment guidance for general practitioners in the UK primary care service.
Before joining the King’s MRC DTP programme, I completed a prestigious multidisciplinary undergraduate degree at University College Roosevelt, the Netherlands, and a MSc in Biomedical Sciences at University College London, UK. My MSc project focused on the murine microbiome and contributed to a pre-clinical study which looked at validating a novel therapeutic for use in treatment of trimethylaminuria.
Rather than continuing in academia, I ended up working for a market research company for a few years, overseeing all the quantitative statistics. Even though I enjoyed the work, I started to miss the challenges of academia and decided to apply for the MRC DTP programme at King’s. It offered a wide range of research projects to choose from, with clinical elements and the opportunity to develop skills in neuroscience and neuroimaging.
My PhD project introduced me to clinical work, such as conducting psychiatric assessments and follow-up visits, fMRI analysis and the social cognitive neuroscience of depression. Moreover, being part of the MRC DTP meant that I got to hear about the exciting work done by other students in workshops and symposia, broadcasting the breadth of the programme.
I am currently working as a KCL/IDOR Pioneer Science Fellow on a project investigating neurocognitive signatures predicting risk of recurrent depression, with a focus on the neural basis of self-blaming biases, building on my PhD work.
Fennema, D., O’Daly, O., Barker, G. J., Moll, J., and Zahn, R. (2021). Internal reliability of blame-related functional MRI measures in major depressive disorder. Neuroimage Clin, 32(102901). doi:10.1016/j.nicl.2021.102901.
Lawrence, A. J., Stahl, D., Duan, S., Fennema, D., Jaeckle, T., Young, A. H., Dazzan, P., Moll, J., and Zahn, R. (2022). Neurocognitive measures of self-blame and risk prediction models of recurrence in major depressive disorder. Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging, 7(3):256-264. doi:10.1016/j.bpsc.2021.06.010
Harrison, P., Carr, E., Goldsmith, K., Young, A., Ashworth, M., Fennema, D., Barrett, B., and Zahn, R. (2020). Study protocol for the Antidepressant Advisor (ADeSS): A decision support system for antidepressant treatment for depression in UK primary care: a feasibility study. BMJ Open, 10(5), e035905. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2019-035905
Lawrence, A. J., Stahl, D., Duan, S., Fennema, D., Jaeckle, T., Young, A. H., Dazzan, P., Moll, J., and Zahn, R. (2021). Neurocognitive measures of self-blame and risk prediction models of recurrence in major depressive disorder. medRxiv doi: 10.1101/2021.01.13.21249739
Harrison, P., Carr, E., Goldsmith, K., Young, A., Ashworth, M., Fennema, D., Barrett, B., & Zahn, R. (2020). Study protocol for the Antidepressant Advisor (ADeSS): A decision support system for antidepressant treatment for depression in UK primary care: a feasibility study. BMJ Open, 10(5), e035905. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2019-035905.
Fennema, D., Harrison, P., Barker, G. J., and Zahn, R. Who benefits from standard antidepressants? Preliminary findings supporting a moral sentiment-task based functional MRI measure for personalising treatment. Poster presented at the 10th conference of the International Society for Affective Disorders; November 2019; London, UK.
Fennema, D., Philips, I. R., and Shephard, E. A. (2016). Trimethylamine and trimethylamine N-oxide, a flavin-containing monooxygenase 3 (FMO3)-mediated host-microbiome metabolic axis implicated in health and disease. Drug Metabolism and Disposition, 44(11), 1839-1850. doi:10.1124/dmd.116.070615
Scott, F., Gonzalez Malagon, S. G., O’Brien, B. A., Fennema, D., Veeravalli, S., Coveney, C. R., Philips, I. R., and Shephard, E. A. (2017). Identification of flavin-containing monooxygenase 5 (FMO5) as a regulator of glucose homeostasis and a potential sensor of gut bacteria. Drug Metabolism and Disposition, 45(9), 982-989. doi:10.1124/dmd.117.076612
Veeravalli, S., Karu, K., Scott, F., Fennema, D., Philips, I. R. and Shephard, E. A. (2018). Effect of flavin-containing monooxygenase (FMO) genotype, mouse strain and gender on trimethylamine N-oxide production, plasma cholesterol concentration and an index of atherosclerosis. Drug Metabolism and Disposition, 46(1), 20-25. doi: 10.1124/dmd.117.077636
Fennema, D., Barker, G. J., O’Daly, O., Harrison, P., Duan, S., Godlewska, B., Moll, J., Young, A. H., and Zahn, R. Neural signatures of emotional biases predict prognosis in treatment-resistant depression. Presented at the British Association for Psychopharmacology Summer Meeting 2022; July 2022; London, UK.