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Barak Morgan


Barak Morgan is an interdisciplinary neuroscientist who explores how physical, biological, psychological and social domains encompass a unitary polycentric co-regulating world. He is an Honorary Research Associate in the Public Law Department,  Law Faculty,  University of Cape Town.

Barak is a medical doctor with clinical experience mostly in psychiatry. He also has a PhD in engineering. His varied background allows him to apply a wide range of interests, ideas and techniques to complex brain, mind and behaviour questions. Most of his research is in the field of early childhood development, focused on the enduring impact of early biopsychosocial experience on brain structure and function in later life. A particular focus of the research is on the effects of poverty on brain, cognitive, emotional and social development.  A large aspect of this research involves translating the neuroscience of childhood development into a broader interdisciplinary context (humanities and social sciences) as well as into the public domain in scientifically accurate socially positive ways.

He is also one of three original investigators behind a randomised controlled trial comparing maternal-neonate skin-to-skin contact from birth (aka 'immediate kangaroo-mothercare') to maternal-neonate separation (incubators) for unstable low birth weight neonates. This study, coordinated by the WHO, involved over 3000 mother-infant pairs across 5 countries: Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Tanzania and India.

Another longstanding line of research investigates the role of the basolateral amygdala in human social, cognitive and affective function.

Publications include: 

Linner, A., Westrup, B., lode-Kolz, K., Klemming, S., Lillieskold, S., Markhus, H., Morgan, B., Bergman, N, Rettedal, S. & Jonas, W. 2020. Immediate parent-infant skin-to-skin study (IPISTOSS): study protocol of a randomised controlled trial on very preterm infants cared for in skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth and potential physiological, epigenetic, psychological and neurodevelopmental consequences. BMJ Open 10:1-9

Zimmerman, A., Halligan, S., Skeen, S., Morgan, B., Fraser, A., Fearon, P. & Tomlinson, M. 2020. PTSD symptoms and cortisol stress reactivity in adolescence: Findings from a high adversity cohort in South Africa. Psychoneuroendocrinology 121: 104846.

Morgan, B., Hunt, X. Sieratzki, J., Woll, B. & Tomlinson, M. 2019. Atypical maternal cradling laterality in an impoverished South African population. Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition. 24(3): 320-341.

Morgan, B., Hunt, X. & Tomlinson, M. 2017. Thinking about the environment and theorising change: how could Life History Strategy Theory inform mHealth interventions in low- and middle-income countries? Global Health Action, 10:1.

Morgan, B., Kumsta, R.,  Fearon,  Pasco,  Moser, D., Skeen,  S., Cooper, P.,  Murray, L., Moran, G., &  Tomlinson, M. 2017. Serotonin Transporter Gene (SLC6A4) Polymorphism Influences Susceptibility to a Home-Visiting Maternal-Infant Attachment Intervention Delivered by Community Health Workers in South Africa: Follow-up of a Randomized Controlled Trial, PLOSMedicine.

Pasco Fearon, R.M., Tomlinson, M., Kumsta, R.,   Skeen, S., Murray, L.,  Cooper, P. J.,  Morgan, B. 2017. Poverty, early care and stress reactivity in adolescence: Findings from a prospective, longitudinal study in a low-middle income country. Development and Psychopathology. 

van Honk, J., Terburg, D., Thornton, H.,  Stein, D.J. & Morgan, B. 2016. Consequences of Selective Bilateral Lesions to the Basolateral Amygdala in Humans, In Amaral, D., & In Adolphs, R. Living Without An Amygdala, Guilford Press.

Tomlinson, M. & Morgan, B. 2015. Infant Mental Health Research in Africa: Call for Action for Research in the next 10 Years.Global Mental Health. 

Klumpers, F., Morgan, B., Terburg, D., Stein, D.J. & Van Honk, Jack. 2015. Impaired acquisition of classically conditioned fear-potentiated startle reflexes in humans with focal bilateral basolateral amygdala damage. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Advanced Access

Morgan, B., Sunar, D., Carter, C.S., Leckman, J.F., Fry, D.P., Keverne, E.B., Kolassa, I.T., Kumsta, R. & Olds, D. 2014. Human Biological Development and Peace: Genes, Brains, Safety, and Justice. In: “Pathways to Peace: The Transformative Power of Children and Families,” J. F. Leckman, C. Panter-Brick, and R. Salah, eds. 2014. Strüngmann Forum Reports, vol. 15, J. Lupp, series ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

De Gelder, B., Terburg, D., Morgan, B., Hortensius, R., Stein, D.J., Van Honk, J. 2014. The role of human basolateral amygdala in ambiguous social threat perceptionCortex,  52:28–34. 

Van Honk, J., Eisenegger, C., Terburg, D., Stein, D.J. & Morgan, B. 2013. Generous economic investments after basolateral amygdala damage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110 (7): 2506-2510. 

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