Principal Researcher and Clinician

Professor Adam Guastella


Professor Adam Guastella is a Clinical Psychologist and Principal Research Fellow at the Brain & Mind Centre. His primary interest is in developing novel treatments to improve social functioning in young patients with mental health concerns and disabilities. 

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Research Staff

Izabella Pokorski

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 Izabella is the team’s Clinical Research Manager, currently overseeing the oxytocin for children with autism study and adult alcohol oxytocin trial.


Nicollette Thornton


Nicollette is a Research Officer, currently overseeing a clinical trial for children with ASD.

PhD Candidates

Zahava Ambarchi

Zahava Ambarchi is a clinical research professional with significant experience across both commercial and investigator-initiated trials in neuroscience and mental health, psych-oncology and other medical fields. Her PhD will involve investigating the relationship between eye-gaze, social cognition and social interaction in young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, who are participating in trials involving both medical and social learning therapies.

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Shrujna Patel

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Shrujna completed a Bachelor of Advanced Science, with Honours in Neuroscience, from the University of New South Wales in 2016. She has a strong background in laboratory science, with expertise in the cellular and molecular processes of the nervous system. Her PhD project focusses on the role of the immune system and neuroinflammation in the pathophysiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders. She is currently involved in collecting and analyzing blood samples from children in the oxytocin clinical trial, investigating biomarkers of neuroinflammation and ASD.

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Karen Pepper 

Karen Pepper holds  BA Hons (Sydney) and MA Hons (Wollongong) degrees in psychology, and has completed a Master of Brain and Mind Sciences degree at the University of Sydney. She has previously been involved in a range of research projects on the psychology of visual perception, learning disabilities and health psychology, and has taught psychology subjects to health sciences students. Her current research interests include the interactions between social anxiety, social cognition, attentional biases and eye gaze in people with autism spectrum disorders, psychosis, and social anxiety disorders. 

Marilena DeMayo


Marilena DeMayo is a PhD candidate under Adam Guastella. Her research is on the neuroscience of social dysfunction disorder, with a focus on children. Marilena’s research has two domains. Firstly, investigating neurological differences between children with ASD and those typically developing. Furthermore, she is investigating MRI before and after oxytocin treatment, looking for any predictors of oxytocin treatment response.

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Shin Ho Park



Shin Ho Park is a PhD candidate investigating the predictors in treatment response to cognitive-behavioural therapies and establishing a predictive treatment model using various clinical, psychological and biological measures. He graduated from the University of New South Wales with a Bachelor of Bioinformatics (Honours) and Master of Biomedical Engineering in 2014. His end goal is to improve individualised psychiatric treatment in clinics using a predictive biostatistical model. 

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Eleni Demetriou


Eleni completed the Honours degree, Bachelor of Science in Psychology and the Master of Clinical Psychology both from the University of NSW.  In 2012 she graduated with the degree of Master of Brain and Mind Sciences from the University of Sydney.  Eleni’s research interests include the identification of neurobiological and psychological markers of developmental disorders.

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Master Candidates

Dr. Rinku Thapa

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Dr Rinku Thapa is a medical assessor for child oxytocin trial at Brain and Mind centre.  Rinku has a broad range of experience and skill in medical field.

She also holds masters degree in Public Health from University of Sydney. Her primary interest is in link between cardiac response (HR) and synchrony behavioural mechanism in children with autism spectrum disorder under Ian Hickie and Adam Guastella. Her research interest also focused on heart rate variability between adult autism and mental disorder patients.

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