Academic staff – University of Copenhagen

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Department of Psychology > Academic staff

Jonathan Holm-Skjold

Jonathan Holm-Skjold

PhD fellow

What do I work with?

Investigating brain maturation in healthy children, and how it relates to behavioral development.

 

Why?

This research will help us understand why children and adolescents behave so differently, and which regions in the brain might not yet be fully developed in children whom develops neuropsychological diseases.

 

More on my PhD project:

Why do children behave so differently?
Might it be related to difference in how the brain is maturing?

 

We know that the brain undergoes major structural change from birth to early adulthood, and that this maturation process does not occur all over the brain at the same time. In research we talk about a bottom-up and backwards-forwards maturation process, wherein basic areas involved with the senses, and motor control matures earlier then higher order regions typically involved in controlling behavior. You can image a system wherein a fully developed system of excitation can easily overrule an undeveloped regulatory system, which might give rise to the teenagers sometimes –in the parent’s eye– illogical and hotheaded behavior. But of course not all teenagers are like this, there is a huge variation in how people behave, which has led us to question whether individual difference in brain maturation might explain these differences?

To answer this question, we followed the same group of children over a six-year period, scanning them twice a year using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and giving them several neuropsychological tests and questionnaires. The MRI scanning’s allows us to probe the structural changes inside the brain, which we can compare to performance of the different tasks.

In my PhD we focus on the maturation of white matter, and how it relates to the development of emotional regulation, and regulation of the stress hormone cortisol. White matter can be seen as the wires and road of our brain, communications cables and a transport network necessary to maintain brain activity. As we grow up this system becomes more efficient, it is this process of a maturing white matter system we investigate. By employing longitudinal data and advanced statistics we can model different patterns or trajectories in the white matter maturation and link these findings to behavioral development. This knowledge will grant us a better understanding of how each brain might have a unique maturational pattern, which will effect behavior. It will also give us a better understanding of which brain regions might be undeveloped or deteriorated in children whom develops autism or AHDH.

 

If you have any question or simply wants to know more about the project, you are very welcome to contact me.

I would also love to help with any school/high school/university project that might fall within my field.

Primary fields of research

  • Brain maturation
  • White matter
  • Emotional regulation.
  • Cortisol.
  • Children and adolescents.
  • Magnetic Resoance Imaging (MRI)
  • Diffusion-Weighted Imaging (DWI)

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