Aston Institute of Health and Neurodevelopment (IHN)

About the Institute

Aston Institute of Health and Neurodevelopment (IHN) exploits advanced technology to explore brains, development, and healthy behaviours. Our research in children extends from ‘bench to bedside’.  Our discoveries become the next advances in healthcare and educational policy for literacy, eating and neurodevelopmental disorders. We are putting children at the heart of research.

IHN provides an academic milieu to foster research excellence, supported by facilities that enable cross-cutting topics in which we have a demonstrated track record. IHN's capabilities in advanced technologies, child-centred assessments, and Care Quality Commission registered clinical services create a rich hub of opportunity for world-leading research and the education of young scholars. Members of IHN strive to generate world-leading translational neuroscience research.

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Our Vision

IHN unlocks the potential of research to support child health and development. 

IHN answers the questions that matter to children, families and the services that support them.

IHN develops the next generation of research leaders in child health and development.


Happy children

Our Research

IHN members aim to advance our understanding of fundamental brain processes at the cellular level so that we can better target disordered neural signaling to improve patient outcomes. Our work on the cognitive science and neuroscience of human vision, sensation, language, and affect, uses innovative methodologies to advance our knowledge of typical behaviour. These insights can then be applied to improving the characterisation of neurological disorders, atypical neurodevelopment (e.g. autism, epilepsy, dyslexia), and the creation of targeted interventions to improve child health, for example, anxiety management in autism, co-design of mental health services, evidence-based nutrition guidance for children, novel approaches to feeding and eating behaviour change in individuals, services and systems, public health policy change regarding medicines used in pregnancy, and pre-surgical imaging tools to improve prediction of outcome neurosurgery.

Our researchers conduct studies around meaningful subjects which impact on the wellbeing of young people and society, in particular:

  • Autism and social cognition
  • Eating and nutrition
  • Epilepsy
  • Reading and dyslexia.

Our discoveries improve knowledge, and offer opportunities to improve the care and wellbeing of people experiencing neurological, neurodevelopmental or mental health conditions.

Our Collaborative Partners

Collaborators and Partners

We work with a wide range of collaborators and partners including:

  • Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust 
  • The University of Birmingham
  • City, University of London
  • Loughborough University
  • McMaster University
  • The University of Oxford


Our research has been funded by a variety of sources: 
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
  • Cerebra
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
  • Encephalitis Society
  • Epilepsy Research UK
  • GW Pharma
  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • The European Commission 
  • The WellcomeTrust

Current Research

Active research projects being led by researchers in IHN:
Funder             Research project
AutisticaEnsuring timely and targeted intervention for anxiety and depression in minimally verbal individuals with autism
AXA Research Fund Setting girls on a trajectory of better health: Using complex systems modelling to reduce risks of poor diet quality in early childhood.
Birmingham Women's and Children's PICs CharityUsing Resected Human Tissue in Organotypic Cultures for Epilepsy Research
Birmingham Women's and Children's CharityUsing Resected Human Tissue in Organotypic Cultures for Epilepsy Research
Economic and Social Research Council A school closer to home: using mealtimes to foster language development, improve girls' nutrition and align home and school in rural Kenya and Zambia
Economic and Social Research CouncilAppetite in Preschoolers: Producing Evidence to Tailor Interventions Effectively: the APPETItE study
Jerome Lejeune FoundationTen-year longitudinal follow-up of people with Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome.
Nuffield FoundationReading and Vocabulary (RAV)
TMF Global Services UK LtdParenting behaviour and its relationship with anxiety in individuals with autism and intellectual disability
TMF Global Services UK LtdPersonal and environmental characteristics associated with anxiety in minimally verbal individuals with autism.
TMF Global Services UK LtdPersonal Characteristics, mental health and well-being in Bardet-Biedl syndrome
TMF Global Services UK LtdBehaviours that challenge in SATB2-associated syndrome
The Academy of Medical SciencesNetwork Dynamics of Focal Cortical Dysplasia
The British AcademyLearning to read the whole word as well as the parts
Wesleyan FoundationUnderstanding people’s experiences of assisted breathing interventions and critical care for COVID-19, in order to understand their psychological needs for long-term recovery

Research Facilities 

IHN is home to the following research facilities, which are also open to external collaboration:

Associated Facilities

Researchers in IHN also make use of the following associated facilities:

Clinical and Assessment Services 

Researchers and Team

Our world-class multidisciplinary team work in three themes: Cellular/Fundamental, Behavioural/Cognitive and Applied/Clinical Health.

The IHN Management Team

Professor Jackie Blissett (Co-Director) 

Jacqueline is a Professor of Childhood Eating Behaviour, and Co-Director of the Institute of Health and Neurodevelopment. She investigates the biopsychosocial predictors of food acceptance and rejection, the health correlates and consequences of children's eating behaviour, and develops interventions to maximise the likelihood of healthier eating outcomes in a variety of vulnerable groups.   

Professor Gavin Woodhall (Co-Director) 

Gavin is Professor of Neuropharmacology and Co-Director of the Institute of Health and Neurodevelopment. He develops new animal and human models of brain disease for drug discovery, with a focus on the maladaptive processes underlying altered network function in epilepsy and schizophrenia.

Professor Evangeline Wassmer (Clinical Director)

Evangeline Wassmer is the Clinical Director of the Institute of Health and Neurodevelopment and a Consultant Paediatric Neurologist at Birmingham Children's Hospital, UK. Evangeline specialises in demyelinating disorders, in particular, pediatric multiple sclerosis. She is the Chief Investigator of the the Paediatric UK Demyelinating Disease Longitudinal Study (PUDDLS); a prospective longitudinal observational study which aims to determine the natural history, predictors and outcomes of childhood CNS inflammatory demyelinating diseases.

Dr Karen Woodhall (Research Strategy and Operations Manager)

IHN Members

Dr Doug Caruana (Cellular/Fundamental) 

Professor Claire Farrow (Applied/Clinical) 

Dr Stuart Greenhill (Cellular/Fundamental) 

Professor Klaus Kessler (Cognitive/Behavioural) 

Dr Rebecca Knibb (Applied/Clinical)

Dr Michael Larkin (Applied/Clinical)

Dr Andrew Schofield (Cognitive/Behavioural) 

Dr Laura Shapiro (Cognitive Behavioural) 

Dr Rachel Shaw (Applied/Clinical) 

Professor Joel Talcott (Cognitive/Behavioural) 

Dr Jane Waite (Cognitive/Behavioural)

Dr Caroline Witton (Cognitive/Behavioural) 

Dr Xuming Zhang (Cellular/Fundamental) 

IHN Research Fellows

Dr Elaine Foley (Cognitive/Behavioural)

Dr Megan Jarman (Applied/Clinical) 

Dr Sian Worthen (Cognitive/Behavioural) 

Dr Sukhvir Wright (Cellular/Fundamental) 

IHN Early Career Researchers

Dr Matt Buckley (Cognitive/Behavioural)

Dr Sarah Carrington (Cognitive/Behavioural)

Dr Katie Chisholm (Applied/Clinical) 

Dr Charlotte Hartwright (Cognitive/Behavioural)

Dr Gemma Health (Applied/Clinical)

Dr Craig Hedge (Cognitive/Behavioural)

Dr Dan Griffiths-King (Cognitive/Behavioural)

Dr Gemma Mansell (Applied/Clinical)

Dr Jan Novak (Cognitive/Behavioural) 

Dr Charlotte Pennington (Cognitive/Behavioural)

Dr Mariaelena Reynolds (Applied/Clinical)

Dr James Reynolds (Applied/Clinical)

Dr Dan Shaw (Cognitive/Behavioural)

Dr Samantha Strong (Cognitive/Behavioural)

Dr Joanne Tarver (Applied/Clinical)

Dr Boubker Zaaimi (Cellular/Fundamental)

Dr Johanna Zumer (Cognitive/Behavioural)

IHN Honorary & Emeritus Members

Professor Seri Stefano 

Professor Amanda Wood

IHN Operations Team

Liz Byrne (Administrator - Clinical) 

Sarah Paris (Administrator - Research) 

Sian Worthen (MEG Lead) 

Hongfang Wang (Academic Support Officer (IHN and ALIVE)

Shaheen Lateef (Lead Research Radiographer)

Liz Squire (Lead Clinical Radiographer) 

Kate Garas (Senior Clinical Radiographer)

Patti Price (Senior Clinical Radiographer)

Frank Pearson (Educational Psychologist)

Andrea Scott (Technical support)