Dr Muireann Irish, cognitive neuroscientist, Neuroscience Research Australia/UNSW, Sydney

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08 September 2015

How we imagine the future

Dr Muireann Irish has discovered which parts of our brain are essential to imagine the future, ranging from simple things like “I must remember my keys and my wallet when I go out,” to imagining complex events such as “my next holiday”. And she has shown that people with dementia don’t just lose the ability to remember the past, they also lose the ability to envisage the future.

She will use her L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship to better understand how dementia affects this cognitive function. She expects her work will inform the development of activities for patients that will improve their quality of life and reduce the burden faced by caregivers.

Cognitive decline in the form of dementia will be one of the greatest challenges for our health system in the next fifty years and Muireann is leading the search for solutions.



2008 PhD (Psychology), Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
2007 Graduate Diploma in Statistics (Distinction), Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
2003 Bachelor of Psychology (1st Class Honours), Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Career highlights, awards, fellowships, grants

2015 Keynote speaker, Frontotemporal Dementia Conference Up Close and Personal, Coffs Harbour, NSW
2015 Elected as a member of the international Memory Disorders Research Society
2015 ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Cross Program Support Scheme grants (also received in 2012, 2013, and 2014)
2015 Invited presentation, International Neuropsychological Society annual meeting, Denver, Colorado, USA
2015 UNSW Faculty of Science Dean’s Carers Fellowship
2014 NSW Young Tall Poppy Science Award, Australian Institute for Policy and Science
2014 Invited presentation, Australian Psychological Society College of Clinical Neuropsychologists annual general meeting
2014 CASS Foundation travel award to attend International Society for Behavioral Neuroscience annual meeting, Hawaii, USA
2014 Invited panellist, Sydney Biennale
2014 Study visit, International Conference on Frontotemporal Dementia and invited presentation at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
2013–2016 ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA), Back to the future–dissociating mental simulation processes in the brain
2013 Dean’s Award for National Achievements in Research, Faculty of Science, University of New South Wales
2013 Paxinos Prize awarded for best Postdoctoral Research Paper at Neuroscience Research Australia
2013 Conference and collaborative visit to Europe, International Neuropsychological Society annual meeting in Amsterdam, Netherlands and invited presentation at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Dublin, Ireland
2013 Laird Cermak Award for Outstanding Research in Memory, International Neuropsychological Society annual meeting, Hawaii, USA
2013 Outstanding Presentation by an Early Career Researcher, International Neuropsychological Society annual meeting, Hawaii, USA
2012 Ian Potter Foundation travel award to attend International Neuropsychological Society meeting, Hawaii, USA
2012 Nominated and elected into member-only International Society for Behavioural Neuroscience. Invited presentation and elected faculty member, San Francisco, USA
2012 Study visit and invited presentations at Harvard University, and VA Boston Healthcare, Boston, USA
2011 Dean’s Rising Star Award, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales
2011 Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation Project Grant

Top five publications

Irish M, Addis DR, Hodges JR, Piguet O (2012) Considering the role of semantic memory in episodic future thinking: evidence from semantic dementia, Brain 135(7): 2178–2191. (Impact factor 9.196, 78 citations)

Irish M, Piguet O, Hodges JR (2012) Self-projection and the default network in frontotemporal dementia,Nature Reviews Neurology 8(3): 152–161. (Impact factor 15.358, 38 citations)

Irish M, Lawlor BA, O’Mara SM, Coen RF (2011) Impaired capacity for autonoetic reliving during autobiographical event recall in mild Alzheimer’s disease, Cortex 47(2): 236–249. (Impact factor 5.128, 50 citations)

Irish M, Piguet O, Hodges JR, Hornberger M. (2014) Common and unique gray matter correlates of episodic memory dysfunction in frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, Human Brain Mapping 35(4): 1422–1435. (Impact factor 5.969, 25 citations)

Irish M, Hodges JR, Piguet O (2014) Right anterior temporal lobe dysfunction underlies theory of mind impairments in semantic dementia, Brain 137(4): 1241–1253. (Impact factor 9.196, 14 citations)

2015 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellow Muireann Irish (Credit: L'Oréal Australia)


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