Róisín McKenna

    Ms Róisín McKenna

    Postgraduate research student

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    Research Interests

    PhD Title: The relationships between executive functioning and challenging behaviours in children with neurodevelopmental disorders (funded by DEL).

    Summary of Project: Neurodevelopmental disorders can be defined based on the genetic cause- like Downs sundrome or Fragile X syndrome- or on collections of behavioural symptoms, such as autism. For children with many of these disorders and their families, one of the biggest challenges is the very high level of externalising behaviour - such as aggression, and/or internalising behaviour - such as anxiety or depression- shown by the children. Executive function (EF) is impaired in many neurodevelopmental disorders, and this impairment is broadly linked to clinically-relevant behaviour. Importantly though, strong evidence suggests that executive functions can be fractionated into separable circumscribed processes, which can relate differentially to behaviour. However, in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, we know very little about how these relationships play out. Understanding how circumscribed executive processes may be linked to specific patterns of maladaptive behaviour is critical for the development of intervention approaches that target cognitive change to bring about a desired behavioural outcome.

    I have conducted a meta-analysis on existing fMRI data obtained from studies assessing executive function performance in typically developing children. The aim of this meta-analysis is to better our understanding of the structure of executive function in development and inform on the development of a battery of EF tasks for children. For the remainder of my PhD, I have decided to examine behavioural indicators of internalising and externalising problems in atypical child populations. A particular focus will be to assess how contextual information impacts these behaviours and indeed, the role EF may play in the expression of these context-dependent maladaptive behaviours.

    Achievements and Distinctions

    • The Society for the Study of Behavioural Phenotypes (SSBP) Les and Robbie Fountain Registration Bursary
    • The Seattle Club Conference Studentship Award
    • BPS Undergraduate Award 2014 for attaining the highest overall score in a degree programme
    • Degree Plus Award 2014, Queen's University Belfast
    • Alumni Career Mentoring Award 2013, Queen's University Belfast

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