Dr Joanna McHugh

Meet the CARDI Fellows: Joanna McHugh

Employed by Queen’s University Belfast

Mentor: Professor Frank Kee with Professors Brian Lawlor, Rose Anne Kenny and Ian Robertson (TCD)

Dr Joanna McHugh completed her PhD research at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (2007-2010), where her thesis concerned social and emotional perception. She also holds a first class honours B.A. in Psychology (2006) from University College Dublin. Dr McHugh worked for the NEIL (Neuro-Enhancement for Independent Lives) Research Program as a post-doctoral research fellow before becoming a CARDI Fellow. Her research interests include health behaviours and social functioning in later life, particularly with reference to cognitive outcomes. Within NEIL, she coordinated a randomised controlled trial evaluating a novel nutritional and social intervention for socially isolated older adults. Joanna has published 13 peer-reviewed articles in which she was first named author and presented her research at 19 national and international conferences. Prior to joining NEIL, Joanna was senior post-doctoral research fellow on the “Dem@Care” project, an FP7-funded collaborative project investigating the application of sensor technology to supporting health and social behaviours among individuals with dementia (2012-2013).

The focus of her research as part of the CARDI Leadership Programme is the social determinants of cognitive decline among older adults in Ireland, North and South. It will examine the causal links between loneliness and social isolation and cognitive decline and aims to reveal the mechanisms behind these links studying and comparing longitudinal Irish population studies, TILDA and NICOLA.  The project will investigate several factors, such as social support, stress,  neuro-inflammation and white matter structural integrity to clarify their contributions to the relationship between social isolation and cognitive outcomes in later life.