Imman Idrees 410 by 410

Iman Idrees

PhD Student

Precision Imaging Beacon


Iman is currently undertaking a PhD within the Precision Imaging Beacon of Excellence. Her project primarily focuses on combining brain imaging techniques with advanced autonomic measures to explore the role of the locus coeruleus-noradrenaline brain system in ADHD.


How would you explain your research?

The locus coeruleus-noradrenaline (LC-NA) brain system is a pivotal component of the brain’s global arousal state, preparing the brain for effortful cognitive action. Interestingly, the LC-NA is implicated in the pathophysiology of ADHD and is also thought to be partly responsible for the therapeutic effects of ADHD medications. Yet there are no published studies directly investigating the role of this brain system in ADHD, largely due to its small size and deep location in the brain. With world-leading experts in neuroimaging at the University of Nottingham, we have now developed a way to successfully scan this part of the brain. Thus, my research involves the use of advanced neuroimaging (3T & 7T MRI) and autonomic measures (i.e. pupillometry, heart rate and electrodermal activity) to investigate the role of the LC-NA brain system in ADHD. This research will inform our understanding of the neural and physiological mechanisms underpinning this condition. Furthermore, the outcomes of this research will guide a longer-term research programme exploring autonomic arousal, cognition and medication response in ADHD. The goal is to develop effective and available prognostic markers of treatment response in ADHD, facilitating a personalised medicine approach to this heterogeneous condition.

Why Nottingham and why the Precision Imaging Beacon?

I applied to the University of Nottingham because it is equipped with the technology, expertise, and resources in the research methods I hope to explore. My main research interests are to use imaging techniques to understand the pathophysiology of diseases with the aim to predict, assess and individualise therapeutic interventions. These interests align closely with the aims of the Precision Imaging Beacon to use advances in medical imaging to develop personalised precision healthcare. Furthermore, as someone who enjoys applying interdisciplinary thinking to scientific discovery, the collaborative nature of the Beacon’s PhD programme provides an incredible opportunity to diversify my research skills across a range of disciplines.

What inspired you to pursue this area?

During my research placement at a neurorehabilitation centre, I worked closely with patients to improve their quality of life following a brain injury. This experience cemented my interest in working with clinical populations and inspired me to contribute to research with real-world implications. Given this, my current research involves working directly with clinical populations (i.e. ADHD) to learn more about their condition in order to facilitate meaningful health outcomes for them in the future.

My current research involves working directly with clinical populations to learn more about their condition in order to facilitate meaningful health outcomes for them in the future.

How will your research affect the average person?

This research aims to inform people with ADHD and healthcare professionals about the role of the LC-NA brain system in ADHD. There are many lines of evidence suggesting this brain system may be altered in those with ADHD and we predict that the degree of atypical functioning in this system will be one factor that leads to differential treatment response. As such, this research offers promise for the development of biomarkers that can help predict treatment response and in doing so transform healthcare practices.

What’s been the greatest moment of your career so far?

I truly enjoyed my time working as a Research Assistant where I was able to work independently to manage a complex research project exploring the efficacy of tDCS for optimising performance. tDCS is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique used to influence brain activity via mild electrical stimulation and has great promise as an alternative intervention for many conditions, including ADHD. Whilst managing this project, I was able to gain invaluable technical and practical research skills which have been extremely useful during my PhD studies. I also had the opportunity to supervise undergraduate students which has reinforced my ambition to teach.

How will being based at UoN and joining Precision Imaging help you achieve your goals?

I believe that in order to effectively contribute to the leading questions at the forefront of neuroscience, a variety of research experiences, an open-science mentality and a spirit of collaboration is essential for success. During my time at UoN, I have engaged with international collaborators on a range of different projects which has provided me with incredible opportunities to broaden my research experiences and academic network on an international scale. I look forward to continuing these collaborations whilst at the UoN.

What aspects of your research and role are you looking forward to?

I am particularly looking forward to using multi-modal techniques and sophisticated analyses to interrogate the LC-NA brain system. At present, there are no empirical studies combining high resolution neuroimaging and autonomic measures to investigate the LC or its relationship to key brain networks. As such, I am keen to integrate these measures to provide a more thorough understanding of the LC-NA brain system and its role in ADHD.

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