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I read Psychology at the University of St. Andrews (Scotland), spending a year as a visiting student at Queen’s University, in Canada. I then moved to London for a PhD at the Institute of Child Health, University College London, supervised by Professors Annette Karmiloff-Smith and Jon Driver, in close collaboration with Prof Kim Cornish (now at Monash University, Australia). After a brief visiting fellowship (now developed into an ongoing collaboration) at the Sackler Institute of Developmental Psychobiology, Cornell University, in 2003 I became a lecturer in the School of Psychology, University of Nottingham. I have been based in Oxford since October 2006.

Gaia Scerif

BSc (St. Andrews), PhD (UCL)

Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

  • Fellow of St Catherine's College
  • Associate Head for Education

Attention, Brain & Cognitive Development

Research Summary

 My research focuses on the development of attentional control and those underlying attentional difficulties, from their neural correlates to their outcomes on emerging cognitive abilities. It is important because attention influences how we learn and behave in everyday situations, and it is particularly relevant in the classroom. Many developmental disorders are characterised by attention difficulties, and I aim to understand how they are similar, how they differ, and how difficulties matter to learning.

Understanding these questions involves combining the study of typical attentional control with research on neurodevelopmental disorders of attention that affect molecular pathways and neural circuits involved in attentional control development: 1) disorders with a well-defined genetic aetiology (e.g., fragile X syndrome, Williams syndrome, Down syndrome, sex chromosomal trisomies); and 2) complex behavioural syndromes of mixed aetiology (e.g., AD/HD). Ultimately, this work is of interest both to basic neuroscience and, most importantly, to the families and individuals who are affected by these disorders.


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