Unravelling brain activity and sleep disturbances in prodromal Parkinson’s Disease
The aim of my PhD project is to examine and investigate the mechanisms responsible for brain changes in a prodromal mouse model of Parkinson’s Disease.
People who develop Parkinson’s disease can often be diagnosed with a sleep disorder known as RBD, up to 20 years before the onset of disease symptoms. RBD (Rapid eye movement (REM) behaviour disorder), is a condition that involves the loss of muscle atonia during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stages, which leads to sufferers acting out their dreams. This disordered alteration of brain functionality provides a hint to the pathological processes happening within the brain, years before the full onset of the neurodegenerative disease.
Using a genetic mouse model, I will employ MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) and EEG (electroencephalography) techniques to parse through the changes in the brain that occur during sleep and wake. It is hoped that insights gained from this research will better inform the field as to what happens in the brain, years before the full onset of the disease.
Gemma completed her BSc Neuroscience degree at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland, before moving to California to work as a Technical Specialist in a biotechnology company. While working in the US, she had the opportunity to work in both industry and academia-related settings, and gained an insight into the wide range of neuroscientific research being carried out all over the USA. After moving back to Ireland she worked as a Research Assistant on a pre-clinical Parkinson’s project, where she developed her love for neurodegenerative research.
Gemma chose to pursue the KCL MRC DTP programme as the opportunity to conduct high-level research at a world-renowned facility was one that she could not resist. The training available as part of the DTP is second to none, and the faculty researchers are all experts in their respective fields. The cohort structure of this programme also meant that many PhD students from different backgrounds and research fields could work together to collectively contribute to the betterment of scientific understanding.
Outside of the lab, Gemma regularly teaches as a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) for undergraduate students and runs a science communication instagram account (@gem_in_stem).
Raheel K, Deegan G, Di Giulio I, Cash D, Ilic K, Gnoni V, Chaudhuri KR, Drakatos P, Moran R, Rosenzweig I. Sex differences in alpha-synucleinopathies: a systematic review. Front Neurol. 2023 Jul 20;14:1204104. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2023.1204104. PMID: 37545736; PMCID: PMC10398394.