Meet Our Researchers: Bethan Burnside

PhD student Bethan Burnside.

Bethan Burnside recently started her PhD in Biomedical Sciences with Professor Frank Kooy in the Cognitive Genetics Lab at the UAntwerp Center of Medical Genetics. She aims to explore the epigenetics of ADHD in adult women.

Until recently, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was thought of as a neurodevelopmental condition that occurs in young boys. In fact, even Bethan believed this to be the case – until she was diagnosed with ADHD herself at the age of 25! Unfortunately, due to these misconceptions, ADHD in girls and women is often diagnosed too late or misdiagnosed as something else. As a result, women with ADHD are often unable to access the help that they need.

Given the little existing research on this topic, more studies are needed to understand the experiences and underlying neurobiology of ADHD in this demographic. Bethan’s project will investigate the epigenetics of ADHD.

Epigenetics refers to chemical reactions that affect gene activity and expression (i.e. turning genes “on” or “off”). A person’s environment and behaviours – such as diet, exercise, and smoking – can affect these epigenetic changes. Coming from a background in Psychology, Bethan thinks of epigenetics as the bridge between nature (our genetic code) and nurture (environmental factors).

Interested in the genetics of neurodevelopment? Then take a look at the Cognitive Genetics webpage.