Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

Courtney O’Donnell

M.S. in Psychological Sciences, Pacific University

Courtney O’Donnell



Long distance running, soccer, international travel, copious amounts of coffee, reading and keeping up to date with the latest Neuro research!


I received my B.S. in Premedical Sciences from the University of Miami (FL) in 2010. I was a member of the women’s soccer team all four years on an athletic scholarship. I was voted captain my junior and senior seasons. Playing soccer at the Division I level taught me so many things about myself. For example, that it is possible to take Organic Chemistry tests in jam packed airports, while your team mates are enjoying themselves and slightly making fun of your nerdiness. Even though being a student athlete AND pre-med major was very difficult, I know that I am a better person and student because of it. 

I just finished my Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Psychological Sciences at Pacific University in Portland, Oregon. For my thesis, I used functional MRI to evaluate brain activation during increasingly complex matrix reasoning in asymptomatic carriers of GRN mutations and their non-carrier family members. Participants performed a version of Raven’s Progressive Matrices previously shown to specifically recruit the prefrontal cortex. It has been shown that GRNcarriers will eventually develop Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), which is the most common form of early onset non-Alzheimer's dementia with a mean onset age of 55. This dementia originally attacks the frontal and temporal lobes and is characterized by varying clinical and pathological profiles, which further complicates the diagnosis and prognosis of the disease. We found that even 10-15 years before disease onset, there was abnormal activation in the prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate in carriers compared to non-carriers.

To date, there is no functional MRI research study on the predementia stage of GRN-mediated FTD, where GRN carriers and non-carriers are asked to complete a task in the scanner. The aim of my thesis is to contribute to the overall understanding of the functional and clinical changes in the brain that occur in the predementia stages of GRN-mediated FTD. In turn, this study will have potential implications in other neurodegenerative diseases caused by autosomal dominant mutations, such as Huntington’s Disease.

I am super excited to start my doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Texas. I will be studying under Dr. Gonzalez Lima and will research various methods to alleviate neurodegeneration, in hopes of better understanding crucial neuronal processes in Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. 

Hook 'em y'all! 

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    The University of Texas at Austin
    SEA 4.208
    108 E. Dean Keeton Stop A8000
    Austin, TX 78712-1043