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Cambridge Biosciences DTP PhD Programme


Department of Clinical Neurosciences

Research theme: Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health


Deborah is a PhD student on the University of Cambridge’s BBSRC funded Doctoral Training Programme. Deborah previously worked as a Research Assistant on an international autism research project, with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen. Prior to this, she achieved a distinction in the MPhil in Basic and Translational Neuroscience, at the University of Cambridge, and in which her research focussed on evaluating how surgery to treat traumatic brain injury alters the brain’s structural integrity. Before coming to Cambridge, Deborah worked as a science writer and communicator at an MRC research institute in London. She graduated from Lancaster University with a first-class degree in Biomedicine. 


Project Title: The Links Between Vascular Health and Cognitive Ageing.

Supervisor: Dr Kamen Tsvetanov

Project Summary:

My research investigates how cardiovascular risk factors contribute to healthy cognitive ageing. The world’s population is rapidly ageing and older individuals typically experience steep declines in cognition. There are no effective treatments, therefore it is important to develop preventative approaches and to understand what enables some individuals to maintain cognitive performance into old age. The neural structures and functional connectivity that underpin cognition are modulated by vascular health. Vascular risk factors include blood pressure, heart rate and BMI. It is not clear whether individual vascular factors induce cognitive change through a single shared pathway or have independent effects. Most previous research combines multiple risk factors into a single composite score. Recent evidence indicates that multiple vascular factors make independent contributions to neuroanatomical ageing. Building on this, I hypothesize that multiple vascular factors are also independently associated with distinct aspects of cognitive ageing. I am investigating this by developing multivariate models that link vascular factors with multiple measures of neural structure and function, and cognitive performance. I use the cross-sectional cohort of the Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience (Cam-CAN), which has deep phenotype data on 700 participants, aged 18-88 years old. I aim to identify brain-wide signatures that underlie the relationships between multiple vascular risk factors and cognitive functions. The vascular factors identified in these analyses can potentially be modified with lifestyle changes such as physical activity, therefore the findings of my PhD work could inform public policies to enable healthy cognitive ageing.


Key publications: 

King, D.L.O., Henson, R.N., Kievit, R. et al. Distinct components of cardiovascular health are linked with age-related differences in cognitive abilities. Sci Rep 13, 978 (2023). 

Other Professional Activities

Deborah won a prize at the Rotman Conference for Ageing and Brain Health, 2023. 

Staff Photo

Job Titles

PhD Student