I am a Marie Curie alumnae, Group Leader and Lecturer at the University of Lisbon since 2015 (after 12 years in the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience of King’s College London (IoPPN – KCL) where I’ve set up the Biomedical Neuroscience research lab (dpratalab.wordpress.com); a current Visiting Lecturer at IoPPN -KCL and a Collaborator of the Centre for Psychological Research and Social Intervention (CIS) of IUL-ISCTE. I was distinguished with the 2017 Marie Curie 3rd Prize as ‘Most Promising Scientist in Innovation & Entrepreneurship’; three publications-based prizes by 2 universities (the 2019 & 2020 ISCTE-IUL Scientific Prizes, and an 2020 Honorable Mention by Univ. Lisbon). In 2023, I was awarded a 2022 Scientific Employment contract, placed Top 1st in Psychology nation-wide.

I became a biologist at the University of Lisbon in 2002, and moved to the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, of KCL, as a Leonardo da Vinci fellow, passionate about human neuroscience. There I started working on the genetics of mental illness. Awarded an FCT fellowship, I moved “closer to the brain” and completed therein a PhD in neuroimaging genetics in 2009. Two years later, I was awarded the prestigious UK NIHR post-doc fellowship to work on a multimodal biomarker for psychosis, then a Lectureship at KCL, also a KCL Academic Advancement promotion, and was distinguished by KCL as a Top Early Career Researcher in the UK Research Excellence Framework 2014.

I’ve been sole PI of €2M in 31 grants (since 2015: 18 grants, totalling > €1M) from a range of sponsors. I was the only researcher distinguished in the triannual 2019 international Evaluation Report of my host institution as “a researcher whose activity should be strongly supported”. Overall, throughout my 20-year full-time research career (0-5% teaching) all my salaries and research have been self-secured by highly competitive calls at national or European-level.

I am given an H-index of 27 (GoogleScholar, >2900 cit. starting in 2007), after 61 articles, mostly in Q1 journals, from which 15 as 1st-author (12 original data, in IF>10 journals, e.g. PNAS, JAMA Psychiatry, Mol Psychiat and Biol Psychiat, all ranking in Psychiatry’s top 4; and in the top Neuroimaging journals, e.g. Hum Brain Mapp, Neuroimage). Since starting my lab, I last-authored 24 articles, in top journals such as Sci Rep, Cer Cortex, J Psychopharm, Psych Med, Hum Mol Gen, Neurosci & Biobeh Rev; I’ve presented, invited, in 57 seminars/meetings, 18 international; and 71 media appearances in TV/radio/newspapers/documentaries (e.g. History Channel, French radio, etc.). I’m invited expert at 13 funding bodies, at 40+ journals; and 13 societies. I have formally supervised 73 MSc/PhD/BSc students (39 international) and 4 post-docs (3 international), including 25 successful MSc/PhD theses; and written projects for 9 PhD/post-doc successful FCT fellowships; with half of my team being international (incl. from competitive universities, i.e. USA, NE, UK, Germany, Switzerland.

Research-wise, while in the UK, I reported the 1st evidence that schizophrenia-risk genes can predispose to bipolar disorder. During my PhD, I pioneered the combination of genetics and neuroimaging to elucidate how genetic mutations implicated in those illnesses affect white matter structure and brain function. As a post-doc, I described how some of these mutations influence response to antipsychotics; and kick-started a genetic/imaging/environmental study to predict psychosis onset, using machine learning. In 2015, I founded my own research lab in Portugal, having been awarded a full-time non-tenured FCT-investigator contract. As a sole PI, in Portugal, I’ve set up a unique multimodal psychophysiological facility (MRI, EEG, SCR, ECG & eye-tracking) which allows a diverse team to perform advanced interdisciplinary human neuroscience: medical doctors, psychiatrists, biologists, psychologists, anthropologist and engineers. We try to unravel mechanisms of the still understudied oxytocin system – using pharmacology, neuroimaging, psychophysiology, genetics, and advanced statistical modelling – to better understand how humans evolved their social abilities, and find clues to ameliorate them in autism, psychopathy and psychosis. Additionally, we develop diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for neurodegenerative illness. Our research has grown steeply in the range of techniques we use, collaborations, media and experts/students we attract.

Overall, my lab’s mission is to: 1) using neuroscience, highlight the importance of the social dimension of our lives to our personal and societal well-being, and to enhance it in health and disease; and 2) to achieve this in an empathic, creative, team-work centered, and socially healthy lab environment.

More info in https://dpratalab.wordpress.com/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_Prata

Photography by Tiago Figueiredo