Niamh MacSweeney

Thesis title: Understanding biological and psychosocial factors associated with adolescent depression


I graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2018 with a First Class, joint-honours degree in Psychology and English Literature. During my undergraduate, I worked on a project that examined the neural correlates of coping and emotion regulation in adolescent depression, under the supervision of Dr Clare Kelly. This work sparked my interested in neuroimaging and adolescent depression. I was awarded a Mental Health Research UK PhD Scholarship in May 2018, and began my PhD in January 2019 at the University of Edinburgh. The aim of my PhD research is to examine biological and psychosocial factors associated with the emergence of depression during adolescence. My research uses a combination of large, population-level datasets, such as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, and locally collected datasets. 

I am a champion for open research and aim to implement as many of these practices (e.g., registered reports, pre-registrations, GitHub) as possible in my research. I am the co-founder of the Edinburgh branch of ReproducibiliTea and the Edinburgh Open Research Initiative. 


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Bachelor of Arts (B.A), Psychology with English Literature, First-Class Honours. 

Research summary

The overarching theme of my research interests is youth mental health. I am particularly interested in the biological, psychological, and social  risk and reslience mechanisms associated with adolescent depression. I was first drawn to this area during the later years of my undergraduate studies, where I undertook a research project investigating the neurcognitive bases of coping in female adolescents with depressive symptoms. This neuroimaging study leveraged a novel behavioural assay of coping and examined its relationship with depression symptom severity and resting state functional connectivity. My doctoral work continues to focus on adolescent depression from a neurobiological and psychosocial perspective. My PhD research uses big data resouces, such as the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study to answer my research questions. I am particularly interested in the interplay between biological factors, such as pubertal development, brain structure and how this may confer risk for depression during adolescence. This work is funded my Mental Health Research UK.


I am passionate about Open Research practices and strive to implement these at every stage of my research workflow. I am the co-founder and organiser of Edinburgh ReproducibiliTea, a monthly Open Research Journal Club (Twitter: @Edinburgh_Tea; Youtube: and also a member of the Edinburgh Open Research Initiative (

Current research interests

Adolescent depression; depression-related imaging features; risk and resilience mechanisms; bio-psycho-social model;

Past research interests

Adolescent depression; translational science; functional neuroimaging; coping; developmental neuropsychology.

Knowledge exchange

I am a keen communicator of science and regularly participate in public engagement events with the Division of Psychiatry and Edinburgh Neuroscience. I am also passionate about meaningful youth involvement in research. I was awarded a Royal Society STEM Partnership grant with Musselburgh Grammar School in 2019 to undertake a project with students on the biology of mood.  I was a 3 Mintute Thesis  Unversity of Edinburgh finalist in 2019 (

I was the founder and co-ordinator of IMMAlab Young Persons' Advisory Group at TCD, and a team partner on Project Soothe's Young Citizen Scientists Project at the University of Edinburgh.

Affiliated research centres

  • Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences