Dr Natalie Matosin PhD is a Brain Biologist and Group Leader at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute and Molecular Horizons at the University of Wollongong, with a joint appointment at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Germany.
Dr Matosin has spent 10 years specialising in neuroscience and the examination of human postmortem brain samples to understand the workings of the human brain at a resolution not possible in the living. She is one of few researchers in the world with this specialty. Matosin was awarded her PhD in Molecular Psychiatry from the University of Wollongong in 2015 and subsequently undertook early postdoctoral training at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
In 2016, Dr Matosin was recruited to the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich for advanced postdoctoral training and was awarded internationally competitive fellowships from the NHMRC (CJ Martin Overseas Biomedical Fellowship), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the International Brain Research Organisation (IBRO). Dr Matosin relocated back to IHMRI and Molecular Horizons in 2018 where she has established the Stress and Mental Illness Lab. Her group focuses on understanding how stress and trauma may trigger severe mental illness at a molecular level.
Dr Matosin’s research has provided major insights into the brain biology of mental illness, influencing industry partners, international researchers and clinicians to drive drug discovery, inform human clinical trials, and identify novel drug targets. This work has been recognised through over 20 national and international awards, including being a 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 Lister for Science and Healthcare in Europe, a 2017 international TEDx Speaker, a 2019 Australian Tall Poppy (NSW) and the recent recipient of the 2020 Rebecca L Cooper Memorial and Brain Sciences Awards.
Intense forms of early-life stress, such as childhood abuse and neglect, are alarmingly common and one of the most robust, transdiagnostic risk factors for mental illness. Early-life stress causes biological changes in the brain that are distinct from those resulting from adult stressors. These include changes in brain structure and the makeup of brain cells that can last into adulthood, likely setting affected individuals on an accelerated trajectory to psychiatric illness.
With support from the Rebecca L Cooper Medical Research Foundation, Dr Matosin aims to comprehensively determine the molecular mechanisms that re-shape the human brain after exposure to early-life stress. This includes understanding how stress “gets under the skin” and is integrated into the fabric of brain cells, as well as understanding how brain cells may be rewired in those who have had very stressful experiences. To do this, Dr Matosin will draw on her international training in cutting-edge experimental techniques to study the brains of people who lived with severe childhood stress at unprecedented, single-cell resolution.
With this work, Dr Matosin aims to develop reclassification approaches to identify individuals with mental illness who have had significant stress or trauma exposure and reveal the biological targets to enhance their treatment.