Saima Malik - Biosketch
All of my scientific education and research training has been obtained at McGill University. During the course of my BSc studies in Physiology, I developed a keen interest in neuroscience, thereby prompting me to pursue a Master of Science degree in the Department of Neurology & Neurosurgery. My MSc research examined the effects of prenatal antidepressant exposure on brain serotonergic systems in a guinea pig model. In particular, I used autoradiography to quantify serotonin 1A receptors in selective brain areas. Upon successful completion of my Master's studies, a positive research experience and a continued interest in neuroscience, led to my decision to enroll in the doctoral program in the same department. Due to my budding interest in understanding the living human brain, I entered the domain of brain imaging under the supervision of Dr. Alain Dagher at the Montreal Neurological Institute.
My doctoral work examines the neural substrates of feeding behavior in healthy humans, using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Functional MRI was developed in the 1990s and provides an indirect assessment of neural function. Gaining recognition as a non-invasive methodological tool, it is increasingly being employed to examine brain activation associated with cognitive and pharmacological challenges. In this regard, I have utilized fMRI to investigate the neural response to food and scenery pictures in healthy subjects, following two different feeding-related paradigms: (1) after the intravenous administration of the orexigenic hormone ghrelin, and (2) after manipulating the cognitive expectation of food. The results of these projects show that the neural response to food cues is modulated by both intrinsic factors such as hormones, and extrinsic factors such as expectation to eat. Overall, my PhD research has afforded me extensive training in the design, conduct and analysis of imaging experiments.