Graduate Students

4W9A0365_web2Erind Alushaj: I completed my MSc in Neuroscience under the co-supervision of Dr. Penny MacDonald (PI), Dr. Ali Khan, and Dr. Adrian Owen. My research focused on differentiating the effects of early-stage Parkinson’s disease on the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area. We used magnetic resonance imaging to segment these nuclei, detect changes in brain iron levels, and test their efficacy as diagnostic tools. I am now conducting a study looking to uncover preclinical biomarkers of Parkinson’s disease in patients with REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder (RBD), which will form the basis for my PhD in Neuroscience in the lab. 
Dimuthu Hemachandra: I am a Ph.D. student in the School of Biomedical Engineering at UWO. I completed my undergraduate degree in Physics from the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka and I obtained my MSc. in Astrophysics from the University of Western Ontario. My current research project is focused on analyzing the structural connectivity of the brain using Diffusion MRI to find a biomarker for Parkinson’s disease. I am co-supervised by Dr. Ali Khan & Dr. Penny MacDonald  
Maggie Prenger: I am MD/PhD Neuroscience student under the co-supervision of Dr. Penny MacDonald and Dr. Adrian Owen. I am primarily interested in how emotion processing and social cognition are affected by Parkinson’s disease. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and electromyography, we are investigating the role of brain and facial muscle activity in emotion recognition. We are also looking at brain activity during the comprehension and appreciation of jokes. The results of these investigations will inform about the role of dopamine in brain regions responsible for important social processes. We will also gain knowledge regarding the relatively understudied emotional and social symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and how best to treat these symptoms.  
Oren Princz-Lebel: I am completing a PhD in Neuroscience under the co-supervision of Dr. Penny MacDonald, Dr. Tim Bussey & Dr. Lisa Saksida. I am interested in the neuropathology that underlies cognitive impairments in psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. My research focuses on exploring the role of the dorsal and ventral striatum in stimulus-response learning, and how these regions are affected in disease states like Parkinson’s. We are using pharmacological, behavioural and optogenetic techniques in animal models to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms that drive this process and in hopes of providing new avenues for treatment and diagnosis in the clinic.  
Madeline Gilchrist:   I am currently doing my PhD in Neuroscience under the co-supervision of Dr. Penny MacDonald and Dr. Brian Corneil. I am interested in the effect of Parkinson’s disease on the control of rapid visuomotor responses. By using electromyography to record muscle responses during a reaching task, I am assessing the ability of patients with Parkinson’s disease to suppress automatic responses in favour of initiating planned movements, both on and off dopamine medication. The results of this experiment will provide insight into the role of basal ganglia circuits in modulating automatic motor responses.  


Kasey Van Hedger: I have been a postdoc in Dr. Penny MacDonald’s lab since the summer of 2018, where I study the neural, cognitive, and behavioral effects of psychiatric disorders. I began my research career as an undergraduate at Smith College where I worked on projects assessing hazardous alcohol use and drinking games participation among high school and college students with Dr. Byron L. Zamboanga. I completed my PhD in 2015 at the University of Chicago studying the psychophysiology of time perception with Dr. Greg Norman and spent three years as a postdoc in the Human Behavioral Pharmacology Lab of Dr. Harriet de Wit before coming to Western. I am interested in psychophysiology, neuropsychopharmacology, and neuroimaging, particularly as each contributes to our understanding of substance use disorders.  (BrainsCAN Post-doctoral Fellow 2019-2022)


Mimma Annello: I am a third year Neurology resident doctor under the supervision of Dr.Penny Macdonald. I am interested in Parkinson’s disease and I am involved in multiple projects within the Macdonald lab. I previously worked with with Dr. Adrian Owen and Dr. Melvyn Goodale at The Brain and Mind Institute during my undergraduate degree and medical school training . I completed my undergraduate degree in Medical Science, and my medical school training both at Western University. I hope to do a fellowship in movement disorders and continue to pursue my interest in research.    
4W9A0350_web2Ozhand Ganjavi: Statistical consulting.  



  • Adrian Owen
  • Mel Goodale
  • Ali Khan
  • Tim Bussey
  • Lisa Saksida
  • Brian Corneil
  • Mark Daley
  • Frank Prato
  • Lena Palaniyappan
  • Stefan Kohler
  • Jessica Grahn
  • Mary Jenkins: UWO – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Hooman Ganjavi: UWO – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Daniel Mendonca
  • Jennifer Barr: UWO – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Alia Kashgari: UWO – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Elizabeth Finger: UWO – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Steve Pasternak: UWO – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry

Trainees: Current & Past

Current Undergraduate Thesis Students

  • Yiqiao (Hannah) Feng
  • Taylor Stoat
  • Anisha Patel

Western Work-Study Program

  • Roja Ahimsadasan
  • Layan Mahderbashi

Research Assistants/Volunteers

  • Tarannum Khan
  • Bassel Arafat

Lab Alumni


  • Yoshiko Yabe, PhD

Graduate Students

  • Abdullah Al-Jaja, PhD (July 2022)
  • Andrew Vo, PhD (2021, Post-Doc @ McGill University)
  • Maggie Prenger, MSc
  • Madeline Gilchrist, MSc
  • Oren Princz-Lebel, MSc
  • Nicholas Handfield-Jones, MSc (August 2019)
  • Erind Alushaj, MSc (August 2019)
  • Shiny Yang, MSc (Final year of Occupational Therapy @ UWO)
  • Nole Hiebert, MSc, PhD (completed both degrees in the lab, currently UWO Medical School, Class of 2022)
  • Daniel Glizer, MA
  • Kate Merritt, MSc (Medical School @ University of Ottawa, Class of 2022)
  • Brian David Robertson, MSc (PGY2 Psychiatry @ University of Western Ontario)

Thesis Students

  • Larissa Chan (Graduate Student, Occupational Therapy @ University of Toronto)
  • Sarah Elmedany (Medical School @ University of Limerick)
  • Lydia Lauzon
  • Téa Sue (Medical School @ University of Ottawa)
  • Racheal Madray (Medical School @ University of Ottawa)
  • Jessica Chuchin (Graduate Student, Neuropsychology @ Ryerson University, Fall 2019)
  • Cleo Davies-Chalmers (Medical School @ Queen’s University, Class of 2024)
  • Audrey Cullis (Grad student, Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia)
  • Rita Gustainis
  • Marc Lawrence (Medical School @ University of Ottawa)
  • Brian Lauzon, MD (PGY 2 Internal MedicineMcMaster University)
  • Lauren Chan (Medical School @ Western University, Class of 2023)
  • Marc Manzo
  • Collier Jiang, MD (Resident Doctor, Alberta Health Services)
  • Haley Gallant
  • Shiny Yang (See Graduate Student section)
  • Alyson Zwicker (PhD, Pathology, Dalhousie University | Medical School @ Dalhousie University)
  • Jeffrey Lam
  • Omer Dost, MD (Adjunct Professor at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry)
  • Alexander Yan (MD/PhD student, UWO)
  • Allyson Partridge
  • Brian Robertson (see Graduate Student section)
  • Andrew Vo (see Graduate Student section)

Other Undergrad Research Electives/Courses

  • Lauren Chan (Medical School @ Western University, Class of 2023)
  • James Joon-Hyuck Im
  • Shreya Roy  (Medical Student Research Elective)
  • Cody Van Valkenburg, MD (Medical Student Research ElectiveUWO, Class of 2018)
  • Stephanie Solcz (Medical Student Research Elective)

Visiting Students

  • Wannipat Buated, PT, BME, PhD (Japan)

Medical Residents (Research Electives)

  • Mimma Anello (Neurology, UWO)

Schulich Research Opportunities Program

  • Rajas Tipnis (Medical Student, UWO)

NSERC Summer Students

  • Kelvin Zhou (2018) (Class of 2021 @ Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, McMaster University)

PEL Co-op Placement

  • Jack Bai (2018, A.B. Lucas Secondary School)
  • Alice Sung (2018, A.B. Lucas Secondary School)

Western Work-Study Program

  • Jessica Chuchin (2017-2019)
  • Jeffrey Liang (2018-2019)


  • Ravneet Nagra
  • Nikil Patil
  • Jackshani Jeevaretnam
  • Azmi Agha
  • Lydia Lauzon
  • Racheal Madray
  • Roja Ahimsadasan
  • Tarannum Khan
  • Mohammad Omer

Former Research Assistants

  • Alex A. MacDonald, MD (UofT Class of 2018, UWO Psychiatry Resident (2018-2023))
  • Ruzbeh Tamjeedi, LL.B
  • Stephanie Solcz, MD (UWO, Class of 2015)
  • Allison Berger
  • Ivan Witt

Note: Current status not available for all former students.