Football on the Brain is a partnership between the University of Oxford and Oxford United in the Community, Ignite, Football Beyond Borders, She Kicks, and Oxford University Sport.
Our team at the University of Oxford includes:
Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg (on right wearing grey and black) is Director of the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging (WIN) and Associate Head of the Medical Sciences Division (Research), University of Oxford. At WIN, she leads the Plasticity Group, whose research focuses on how the brain changes with learning, experience, and damage. Heidi is a keen football player, coaches an U16 girls team and enjoys watching the Lionesses!
Professor Holly Bridge (second from right, front row, with her New College women's football teammates) is a Professor of Neuroscience at WIN. Her research uses non-invasive human brain imaging to understand the organisation of the visual system in both people with normal vision and those who have abnormal visual function. She is particularly focussed on rehabilitation for people who have suffered a stroke affecting their vision, along with those who have problems with their binocular vision. Holly has played football for over 30 years, is a level 2 qualified coach currently coaching u15 boys and spends a lot of time driving children to football training and matches.
Louise Aukland is a teacher and impact evaluation officer. Her Football on the Brain role involves translating the neuroscience and research into training materials for players and coaches, and leading on impact evaluation. Louise’s football skills are limited to kicking the ball around the garden with her children or supporting them in Sunday matches. You might also spot her in the family stand at Oxford United matches!
Morgan Mitchell is a DPhil (PhD) student at WIN. She researches the use of Targeted Memory Reactivation (TMR) during sleep as an intervention to boost the memory consolidation processes underlying motor learning for stroke rehabilitation patients. Morgan has played football for over 20 years and is a qualified coach currently coaching U14 girls. If she’s not playing football in her spare time, she loves cycling and has recently branched out into tackling triathlons, endurance running (including running the Oxford Half Marathon on her birthday and tackling the upcoming London Marathon!), hiking and playing basketball.
Dr Iske Bakker is a Research Coordinator at WIN. Her background is in the cognitive neuroscience of memory and language. She doesn’t know anything about football but is happy to dress up in orange on the rare occasions the Dutch national team has some success.
Dr Carinne Piekema is the Public Engagement Manager and Dr Hanna Smyth is the Public Engagement Officer at WIN. They develop, deliver, and support a wide range of public engagement activities and training opportunities across WIN. Neither have ever played football (though enjoy training for other sports!) but are happy to celebrate when the Dutch or Canadian teams (respectively) have a win.
We are piloting a new programme here at Football on the Brain: Sports Engagement Ambassadors, who will develop and deliver activities that connect research with various sport audiences. Our 2024 Sports Engagement Ambassadors are:
Andrew Spires is a DPhil student in the Department of Biology researching the evolution of social behaviours in animals. His current work uses fruit flies to study female aggression and competition. Beyond academia, he currently plays for, and captains, the Linacre/Corpus Christi MCR football team as well as referee college football. As a sports engagement ambassador, he hopes to make science research accessible and enjoyable through the unifying medium of football.
Holly Jenkins is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Education. Her research focuses on how the brain learns and processes language, and the unconscious mechanisms that support this. Thanks to her older brother, Holly has played football most of her life, and currently plays in goal for Oxford City FC. Holly is keen to explore ways of making science more accessible to the public, and how sport can be used to encourage this. Twitter: @HollEJenkins
Izabelle Lovgren's research involves using advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to better understand what happens in the brain after a head injury. By doing so, she is hoping to identify imaging findings (and other factors such as injury mechanism) that can help us predict how well a child will recover after head trauma, with a particular focus on sports-related injuries. Sports have always been a big part of her life, with her current focus being on long-distance running. Her motivation for becoming a Sports Engagement Ambassador stems from her eagerness to combine her passion for neuroscience and sports with public engagement activities. @izabellelovgren
M Garrido is a plant biochemistry DPhil studying low-oxygen sensing and signalling in potatoes. They're the practical lead for Oxford University Wheelchair Basketball and are passionate about bringing people who were ruled out of sports due to a physical disability or injury (back) into activity. When not in the lab or on the court, they can usually be found in bed, recovering from the outsized energy expenditure that comes with trying to access sports, education and the workplace while disabled.
RuoHan Liu is an MRes student at the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging. Her master experiment and proposed PhD experiment roam around on how mental toughness and enduring through pain or discomfort can sometimes bring a person a greater sense of satisfaction or reward. As well as how this mentality could relate to sport injuries, especially from overexertion. Her biggest joy in life comes from outdoor sports; she loves endurance sports, which is why triathlon came naturally to her, as well as sport climbing or skiing. From becoming a sports ambassador, she hopes to acquire more skills on how to raise awareness via sports, as well as be able to interact with more people who love sports or who are interested in sport related research. Instagram: @Yangyang7755
Our 2023 Sports Engagement Ambassadors were Denise Kohlhepp, Eliza Copland, Lauren Rudd and Zhiyu (Jerry) Zheng. You can read more about them here.