Hajer Nakua, a visiting Fulbright scholar and graduate student at the University of Toronto.
Title: Delineating relationships between cognition, mental health, and brain connectivity in children: the process, the challenges, the opportunities
Abstract: Delineating the neural correlates of mental health symptoms could aid in the understanding of risk and resilience factors of mental health diagnoses in the general population. My PhD explores the relationship between mental health symptoms and brain connectivity in large samples of children with different psychiatric diagnoses. In this talk, I will share three projects from my PhD that aimed to delineate this relationship focusing on finding robust and reproducible relationships. The first explored the relationship between cortico-amygdalar structural and functional connectivity and mental health symptoms using a hypothesis-driven approach. The second explored the relationship between whole brain cortical thickness and mental health symptoms using a data-driven approach. Post-hoc results from the second study found reproducible relationships between cognitive performance and cortical thickness. To build off this finding, the third study investigated the relationship between task-related functional connectivity, mental health symptoms, and cognitive performance. The results of my PhD show that delineating robust and reproducible brain-behaviour relationships in large samples of children may inform population-level trends in brain connectivity metrics and mental health symptoms.