Imperial College London

Dr Niall Bourke

Faculty of MedicineDepartment of Brain Sciences

Research Associate



n.bourke Website




UK DRI CR&TBuilding E - Sir Michael UrenWhite City Campus





I completed my undergraduate psychology degree in Dublin developing a strong interest in traumatic brain injury (TBI). After working as a rehabilitation assistant at Acquired Brain Injury Ireland I moved to London to complete an MSc in neuroimaging at King’s College London. I was involved in various projects including functional imaging with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and a neurodevelopmental project with Romanian adoptees. Following this, I got a position with Prof. Sharp as a research assistant on a clinical trial exploring disruption to the dopaminergic system following TBI. This work tied in with outpatient clinical practice provided excellent translational research experience leading to the development of my PhD topic investigating social cognitive impairments following TBI. I am now investigating arrested development following paediatric TBI, a longitudinal study of brain development and clinical outcomes following a paediatric brain injury. 

Summary of PhD research:
Problems with interpersonal relationships and emotional processing (social cognition) are commonly affected after brain trauma. These issues often go unrecognised, particularly in the presence of apparently normal cognitive exams of memory and attention. This can have long-term impacts on rehabilitation, relationships with family and friends and often the ability to return to work. We have developed a computer-based system to repeatedly test cognitive function, including measures of social cognition. Targeting patients in the acute phase prior to discharge, we will aim to track cognitive performance over time. Combined with neuroimaging this will 1) provide a better understanding of TBI and 2) improve patient care as outpatients by intervening where necessary.

Research interests:
Cognitive neuroscience, neuropsychology, neuroimaging, social cognition, sport psychology, paediatric traumatic brain injury and neurocognitive disorders. I am interested in the cognitive and affective difficulties experienced by individuals with neurological conditions. In addition, I am keen to better understand caregiver burden and translation of research into public health policy. 



Graham NSN, Zimmerman KA, Moro F, et al., 2021, Axonal marker neurofilament light predicts long-term outcomes and progressive neurodegeneration after traumatic brain injury, Science Translational Medicine, Vol:13, ISSN:1946-6234, Pages:1-15

Zimmerman K, Laverse E, Samra R, et al., 2021, White matter abnormalities in active elite adult rugby players, Brain Communications, Vol:3, ISSN:2632-1297, Pages:1-19

Li LM, Bourke NJ, Lai HHL, et al., 2021, Conferences in the time of COVID: notes on organizing and delivering the first Brain Conference, Brain Communications, Vol:3, ISSN:2632-1297

Bourke N, Yanez-Lopez M, Jenkins P, et al., 2021, Traumatic brain injury: a comparison of diffusion and volumetric magnetic resonance imaging measures, Brain Communications, Vol:3, ISSN:2632-1297

Mallas E-J, De Simoni S, Scott G, et al., 2021, Abnormal dorsal attention network activation in memory impairment after traumatic brain injury, Brain: a Journal of Neurology, Vol:144, ISSN:0006-8950, Pages:114-127

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