Sackler Centre for Developmental Psychobiology

Life-long development and ageing

Why do some people develop serious mental and physical health problems as they get older?

Older man in shadow

The focus of our group is to identify the reciprocal relationships between lifelong development, ageing and human health, and why this leads some people to develop serious mental and physical health problems.

We undertake longitudinal studies of individuals from before birth, through adolescence, adulthood and old age to identify the causal events and sensitive time periods for the development of resilience, on the one hand, or ill health on the other.

The samples used in our analyses include the Theirworld Edinburgh Birth Cohort, Generation Scotland, UK Biobank, the  Six Day Sample and the Lothian Birth Cohorts of 1921 and 1936.

We work closely with colleagues from across Medicine, the Arts and Humanities.


Principal investigator

James Boardman (development)

Stuart Ritchie (ageing)


Team members/collaborators

Dr Simon Cox

Prof Ian Deary

Prof Andrew M McIntosh

Prof David Porteous


Key publications

Cole, J, Ritchie, SJ, Bastin, M, Valdes Hernandez, M, Muñoz Maniega, S, Royle, N, Corley, J, Pattie, A, Harris, S, Zhang, Q, Wray, NR, Redmond, P, Marioni, R, Starr, J, Cox, S, Wardlaw, J, Sharp, D & Deary, I 2017, 'Brain age predicts mortality' Molecular Psychiatry.

Cox, S., Ritchie, S. J., Tucker-Drob, E. M., Liewald, D., Hagenaars, S., Davies, G., Wardlaw, J., Gale, C., Bastin, M. & Deary, I. Ageing and brain white matter structure in 3513 UK Biobank participants. Nature Communications. 7, p. 1-13 13 p., 13629, 2016

Anblagan, D., Pataky, R., Evans, M. J., Telford, E., Serag, A., Sparrow, S., Piyasena, C., Semple, S., Wilkinson, A. G., Bastin, M. & Boardman, J Association between preterm brain injury and exposure to chorioamnionitis during fetal life 2016 In : Scientific Reports.

Cox, S., Dickie, D. A., Ritchie, S. J., Karama, S., Pattie, A., Royle, N., Corley, J., Aribisala, B., Hernandez, M. C. V., Muñoz Maniega, S., Starr, J., Bastin, M., Evans, A. C., Wardlaw, J. & Deary, I. Associations between education and brain structure at age 73 years, adjusted for age 11 IQ. Neurology. 87, 17, p. 1820-1826 7, 2016.

Denison FC, Macnaught G, Semple SI, Terris, G, Walker J, Anblagan D, Serag A, Reynolds RM, Boardman JP. Brain Development in Fetuses of Mothers with Diabetes: A Case-Control MR Imaging Study. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2017 Mar 16. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A5118

Telford EJ, Fletcher-Watson S, Gillespie-Smith K, Pataky R, Sparrow S, Murray IC, O'Hare A, Boardman JP. Preterm birth is associated with atypical social orienting in infancy detected using eye tracking. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2016 Mar 2. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12546.

Serag A, Blesa M, Moore EJ, Pataky R, Sparrow S, Wilkinson AG, Macnaught G, Semple S, Boardman JP. Accurate Learning with Few Atlases (ALFA): an algorithm for neonatal brain extraction from magnetic resonance images and comparison with 10 publicly available methods. Sci Rep. 2016 Mar 24;6:23470. doi: 10.1038/srep23470.

Sparrow S, Manning J, Cartier J, Anblagan D, Bastin ME, Piyasena C, Pataky R, Moore EJ, Semple SI, Wilkinson AG, Evans M, Drake AJ, Boardman JP. Epigenomic profiling of preterm infants reveals DNA methylation differences at sites associated with neural function. Transl. Psychiatr. 2016 Jan 19;6:e716. doi: 10.1038/tp.2015.210


Related links

Theirworld Edinburgh Birth Cohort

Generation Scotland

MRC Insight - the six day sample

Lothian Birth Cohorts