News Posts by brainmri

Bell Let’s Talk Day

Pregnant individuals are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to the general population. Levels of symptoms have increased by 3-4 times during the COVID-19 pandemic. Symptoms of depression and anxiety compromise a pregnant parent’s wellness and have been related to child behavioural outcomes that confer risk for later mental illness in children themselves. There is also evidence that prenatal mental health is associated with child brain development, particularly in regions of the brain that regulate emotion. In this way, mental health reaches beyond individuals into families and communities. 

On Bell Let’s Talk Day 2021, it is important that we recognize the increased levels of anxiety and depression experienced by mothers in the past year and talk about how best we can support pregnant parents and their children.

As part of our Pregnancy During the Pandemic study, mothers have completed questionnaires about their mental health. Infant children and their parents have been invited to the hospital to have pictures taken of the infant’s brain using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We will study different regions and measures of the child brain and relate them to the mental health of their parent across multiple time points in pregnancy. Through this work we aim to identify when in pregnancy or postpartum the child brain appears to be most sensitive to the effects of prenatal mental health and stress, and we will provide evidence for when support and interventions for pregnant individuals may be most effective. Stay tuned for our findings!

In Celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and every year the goal is to fight the stigma around mental health, provide support and to educate the public. Mental illness refers to a wide range of disorders that affect mood, thinking and behaviour. In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness or addiction. Many mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence, and can lead to compromised quality of life or premature death in some cases. In our lab, we aim to understand the structure of the developing brain, as well as its function and plasticity with the hope of improving treatments for children who experience learning and behavioural challenges. Many of our ongoing studies focus on the links between mental health and the brain by studying neurological changes during this crucial time of development (preschool-aged children to adolescence) and brain maturation. With understanding of how the brain matures and changes in response to developmental disorders such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and autism spectrum disorder, we can begin to comprehend how to help these children cope and offer explanations as well as treatments and solutions.

Need help or know someone that does?

Kids Help Phone –, live chat online, call a counsellor 24/7 at 1-800-668-6868, or text CONNECT to 686868

Visit the Disaster Distress Helpline –, call 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) –

Mental Health First Aid/Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHFA) –

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Postdoctoral Scholar Position in Clinical or Counselling Psychology and Brain Imaging

Postdoctoral Scholar in Clinical or Counselling Psychology and Brain Imaging

Area: Cumming School of Medicine, Departments of Pediatrics and Community Health Sciences

Duration: Two years, contingent on successful performance and funding.

Salary: $50,000 – 60,000/year, depending on experience, plus Plan C health benefits through Alberta Blue Cross.

The Cumming School of Medicine (Departments of Community Health Sciences and Pediatrics) at the University of Calgary is seeking a postdoctoral scholar to work in the area of brain imaging and child mental health.

Job Description: Our team is recruiting a scholar to become part of an active and innovative research program funded by CIHR that focusses on links between gut microbiota, brain function, and mental health in children and youth. The scholar’s work will focus on brain imaging and mental health; however, the work and opportunities are interdisciplinary. The scholar will collaborate with other postdoctoral scholars who are experts in nutrition and gut microbiota.

The source data for the scholar’s work will be an ongoing cohort study (PI Giesbrecht) that has been funded until 2025 by grants from CIHR. We have already assembled sufficient data to address several questions related to brain imaging and early childhood exposures. The scholar will have immediate access to this data while additional data collection is ongoing. In addition to a focus on data analysis, writing manuscripts, and learning new skills related to child development, the scholar will have opportunities to contribute to new data collection with children and adolescents age 9-14 years, and to designing new projects for further follow-up.


   Applicants must hold an MD or a PhD and have expertise in brain imaging and clinical or behavioral assessment

   Applicants must be 3 years or less post completion of their doctoral degree

   Desired qualifications also include experience with (or training in) experimental and longitudinal research design and analysis

   Applicants are required to have demonstrated capacity to work effectively in a collaborative and interdisciplinary environment

   Fellows are expected to engage in full-time research activities and actively engage in the University

of Calgary’s professional development program as opportunities are being offered

   The successful scholar will be strongly encouraged to apply for national/international awards

Application details:
The postdoctoral scholar will be supervised by Dr. Gerry Giesbrecht in the Developmental Psychobiology Laboratory, and Dr. Catherine Lebel in the Developmental Neuroimaging Lab, For more information, or to apply, please send your CV and cover letter to Dr. Gerry Giesbrecht (

Our research group is committed to enhancing and supporting equity, diversity and inclusion. Applicants from diverse backgrounds, including age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, language, national origin, race, religion, culture, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status, are encouraged to apply. Our commitment is demonstrated in our academic work, clinical training, and research.

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the nation’s most enterprising city. The university has a clear strategic direction to become one of Canada’s top five research universities by 2016, where innovative teaching and groundbreaking research go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. The strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by our Gaelic motto, which translates to ‘I will lift up my eyes.’

To succeed as one of Canada’s top universities, where new ideas are created, tested and applied through first-class teaching and research, the University of Calgary needs more of the best minds in our classrooms and labs. We’re increasing our scholarly capacity by investing in people who want to change the world, bringing the best and brightest to Calgary to form a global intellectual hub and achieve advances that matter to everyone.

About Calgary

Named a cultural capital of Canada and one of the best places to live in the world, Calgary is a city of leaders – in business, community, philanthropy and volunteerism. Calgarians benefit from the strongest economy in the nation and enjoy more days of sunshine per year than any other major Canadian city. Calgary is less than an hour’s drive from the majestic Rocky Mountains and boasts the most extensive urban pathway and bikeway network in North America.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority. The University of Calgary respects, appreciates, and encourages diversity.