Dr Jennifer Cook (PI) – @Jennifer_L_Cook


Jen completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Bath in 2007. She then completed a Wellcome Trust-funded PhD in Neuroscience at University College London (2007-2011). This programme included a 3-year project, in Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s lab, investigating “Action observation and imitation in typical individuals and adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions”. Following this Jennifer  joined Professor Barbara Sahakian’s group at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge (2011-2012). In Cambridge she researched novel methods of cognitive training and was also a Research Fellow of Magdalene College. Subsequently Jen moved to the Donder’s Institute in The Netherlands where she began to study social learning with Professor Roshan Cools. In 2014 Jennifer took up a lectureship at City University London where she continued to study social learning and began to extend these studies into the field of autism research. Jen has been a Birmingham Fellow at the University of Birmingham since September 2015 and is also Associate Editor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience for Royal Society Open Science (

Miss Alicia Rybicki (PhD student) – @neuralicia

Alicia_picture_labAlicia graduated from Trinity College Dublin with an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience. She has since worked as a research assistant in a number of roles in the general field of cognitive neuroscience. She assisted in trialling a balance and movement intervention for older adults (VERVE project) in Trinity College Dublin, before investigating consumer decision-making with the Price Lab, ESRI, Dublin. Recently, she acted as a research assistant on a novel project aiming to develop a tablet-based movement intervention for children with ASD.

In the Cook Lab Alicia will utilise computational approaches to understand the relationship between movement and social learning in autism spectrum disorders, using kinematic tracking, computational modelling and pharmacological interventions. Alicia is supported by the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP), a BBSRC-funded doctoral training programme.

Miss Bianca Schuster (PhD student) – @BiancaASchuster


Bianca completed her MSc in psychology with a specialisation in Theory of Mind and
Neuroscience at the University of Salzburg, Austria. She has since worked as a behavioural therapist with children on the autism spectrum and as a research assistant supporting a project on early biomarkers for ASD and ADHD at the Institute for Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London. Her PhD project is funded by the European Research Council and focuses on how a person’s ability to understand others is informed by their own movements and what role the neurotransmitter dopamine plays in this relationship. In the Cook Lab she will investigate this using neuromodulation and behavioural interventions in healthy volunteers and clinical populations such as people with ASD.

Miss Lydia Hickman (PhD student) – @LydiaJHickman

23B4B3DB-366A-4A5E-98ED-00F064FAF3D5_1_105_cLydia graduated from her undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford in 2018. During her time at Oxford, she assisted with research in the Brain and Behaviour Research Group, Language and Cognitive Development Research Group, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Lydia joined the Cook Lab in 2018 as an MSc by Research student focusing on the relationships between different measures of interoceptive ability. She is now completing a PhD supported by the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP), a BBSRC-funded doctoral training programme. Her PhD aims to explore the fundamental biological mechanisms underlying motor function and social cognition in the context of autism and Parkinson’s.

Mr Connor Keating (PhD student) – @ConnorTKeating

72B9IZJK_400x400Connor completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Birmingham in 2019. Whilst completing his degree, Connor worked as a Research Assistant in the Cook Lab and assisted with our research investigating facial movement kinematics. Connor is now completing a PhD supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC) doctoral development programme. His PhD aims to explore the causes and consequences of deficits in social cognition within clinical populations with reference to motor function and interoception.

Given his experience volunteering with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Connor has a great interest in the relationship between movement and social ability in those with ASD. 

Miss Molly Gracey (PhD student) – @MollyFGracey

IMG_1585Molly completed her MSci in Pharmacology at the University of Manchester in 2020. Her Master’s degree involved researching the effects of exercise on rat models of schizophrenia, with a focus on the cognitive deficits that occur in schizophrenia. She has an interest in studying cognitive symptoms in both neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders. Molly is now completing a PhD supported by the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP), a BBSRC-funded doctoral training programme. Her PhD aims to develop a mechanistic understanding of the role that dopamine plays in social cognition. These results will have important implications for individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.

Dr Hélio Clemente José Cuve (Research Fellow) – @HCuve

Helio St Johns Portrait 2

Hélio completed his PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford in 2021, supervised by Prof Geoff Bird and supported by a Medical Sciences Division Studentship jointly awarded by the Clarendon Fund, and Kendrew Fund (St Johns College). His research seeks to understand the socio-cognitive mechanisms that support typical and atypical face-to-face interactions abilities. Specifically, the ability to access the inner world of others’ emotions, thoughts, and mental states by observing and responding to their behavior (gaze, face/body movement, kinematics, etc.).

In 2022, Hélio joined the University of Birmingham after being awarded the first Experimental Psychology Society Postdoctoral Fellowship. In collaboration with Dr Jen Cook and Prof Rachael Jack, his new work will develop a formal ‘spatiotemporal face-space’, a theoretical model to accounts and explains the dimensions that allow the perception and signalling of rich, dynamic social cues via face movements. Hélios future work seeks to integrate experimental research on social cognition, face/body movement, vision, and action to understand how people successfully navigate face-to-face interactions in real-world social networks (groups) and hope to generate insights that may help develop interventions for those who struggle (e.g., people with autism, depression).

During his free time, Hélio is passionate about music creation, with a background in sound engineering, he enjoys time with synthesizers, drum machines, Ableton and gadgets with shiny buttons.

Mr Dagmar Fraser (Research Programmer) – @dagmarfraser

Screenshot 2020-03-31 at 20.28.25Dagmar Fraser is an Electronic Engineer with a MSc(Res) in Neural Networks and Machine Learning. Fraser held a position in industry developing neural network image classifiers before returning to academia. He has made a career out the capture and analysis of personal/interpersonal kinematic data and has been involved in mobile/wearable development since developing his first application for the iOS platform in 2011. Fraser’s current work focuses on identifying mood states from kinematic data and developing the Brain2Bee app which assesses socio-emotional processing from kinematic signatures.


Miss Leila Iliffe (PhD student, co-supervised with Dr Sarah Beck and Dr Danielle Ropar)

Miss Laura Groves (PhD student, co-supervised with Professor Chris Oliver and Dr Jo Moss)

Miss Lucy Licence (PhD student co-supervised with Dr Caroline Richards)


Dr Sophie Sowden (former Postdoc) – @Sophie_Sowden

StaffID_SophieSowden_2021Sophie completed her Ph.D. under the supervision of Prof. Geoff Bird at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London supported by a MRC studentship. Her research to date has concerned the neurocognitive basis of social behaviour, in particular how the ability to distinguish between the ‘self’ and ‘other(s)’, termed self-other control, may contribute to a range of social cognitive abilities. As a keen ballroom dancer, she has always been fascinated by the link between movement and cognition and therefore her current research focus is on understanding the relationship between motor and social behaviour and what this can reveal about individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Parkinson’s disease. Sophie completed a 3 year postdoc in the Cook Lab and is now a Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham.

Dr Rosy Edey (former PhD student, co-supervised with Dr Clare Press)

Dr Tilman Lesch (former PhD student, co-supervised with Professor Barbara Sahakian)

Dr Supriya Malik (former postdoc)

Ms Katherine Ellis (former postdoc)


Dr Clare Press, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK

Dr Geoff Bird, University of Oxford, UK

Professor Roshan Cools, Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, The Netherlands

Dr Hanneke den Ouden, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, The Netherlands

Professor Gene Robinson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Dr Paul O’Reilly, King’s College London, UK

Dr Sebastian Gaigg, City, University of London, UK

Dr Eduardo Alonso, City, University of London, UK

Dr Elliot Ludvig, Warwick University, UK