Imperial College London

Dr Martina Di Simplicio

Faculty of MedicineDepartment of Brain Sciences

Clinical Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry



+44 (0)20 7594 1071m.di-simplicio




Ms Nicole Hickey +44 (0)20 3313 4161




7N11ACommonwealth BuildingHammersmith Campus





I am based at the Centre for Psychiatry, Brain Sciences Division at Imperial College London and I also work as a Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist in the West London Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.



My research takes an experimental medicine and cognitive phenotyping approach to investigate the cognitive processes underlying emotional dysregulation and mood instability across mental disorders. I focus on young people and vulnerability to mood instability, with the aim of developing innovative early interventions.

A special interest of my work is how mental imagery-based cognition, such as episodic future simulation, may contribute to mood instability and self-harm behaviour in young people.

Integrating psychiatry, psychology, and cognitive neuroscience, I use a variety of approaches, from behavioural experiments, to psychophysiology, and neuroimaging to investigate research areas.

A key part of my work is to evaluate and translate experimental findings into early stage clinical treatment studies, in particular developing brief and customisable interventions enabled by digital tools. One recent development is the IMAGINATOR App for episodic simulation-based self-harm reduction, which was built together with an advisory group of young people with lived experience of self-harm. You can hear more about the development of IMAGINATOR here, presented at the MindTech 2017 Symposium.

You can find more details in the next page.



I trained in medicine and psychiatry at the University of Siena, Italy. During my PhD in the Psychopharmacology and Emotion Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford I investigated how short-term antidepressant administration impact negative emotional information processing biases in young people at risk for depression. At Oxford, I also trained in cognitive behavioural therapy at the Oxford Cognitive Therapy Centre, specialising on mental imagery-based techniques. 

After Oxford, I was Career Development Fellow at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, and Research Associate at Jesus College. My research focused on the cognitive and neural-bases of mental imagery-focused emotion regulation treatment in bipolar disorder and self-harm. At Cambridge, I also worked as a Consultant Psychiatrist in the First Response Service of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.



I engage in arts-science collaborations both in research (co-supervising students of the Royal College of Art, Animation programme) and to promote public communication of mental health science. For example, I have consulted on the Wellcome Trust Screenwriting Fellowship to Chloe Barnard for ‘Dark River’ and I have worked with Menagerie Theatre Company on a play inspired by how mental images can amplify our mood. You can find an extract of Pictures of You by Craig Baxter here.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Di Simplicio M, Appiah-Kusi E, Wilkinson P, et al., 2020, Imaginator: A Proof-of-Concept Feasibility Trial of a Brief Imagery-Based Psychological Intervention for Young People Who Self-Harm, Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, Vol:50, ISSN:0363-0234, Pages:724-740

Ji JL, Holmes EA, Kavanagh DJ, et al., 2019, Mental imagery in psychiatry: conceptual & clinical implications, Cns Spectrums, Vol:24, ISSN:2165-6509, Pages:114-126

O'Donnell C, Di Simplicio M, Brown R, et al., 2018, The role of mental imagery in mood amplification: An investigation across subclinical features of bipolar disorders, Cortex, Vol:105, ISSN:0010-9452, Pages:104-117

Di Simplicio M, Renner F, Blackwell SE, et al., 2016, An investigation of mental imagery in bipolar disorder: Exploring "the mind's eye", Bipolar Disorders, Vol:18, ISSN:1398-5647, Pages:669-683

Holmes EA, Bonsall MB, Hales SA, et al., 2016, Applications of time-series analysis to mood fluctuations in bipolar disorder to promote treatment innovation: a case series, Translational Psychiatry, Vol:6, ISSN:2158-3188


Holmes EA, Hales SA, Young K, et al., 2019, Imagery-Based Cognitive Therapy for Bipolar Disorder and Mood Instability, Guilford Publications, ISBN:9781462539055

More Publications