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Professor Catharine Gale BSc, PhD

Professor of Cognitive Epidemiology

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Professor Catharine Gale is Professor of Cognitive Epidemiology in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton.

Cognitive ability in childhood is related to many important life outcomes, including health and longevity. As an epidemiologist, a major focus of my research is to understand why cognitive ability is linked with later physical and mental health

After graduating with a 1st class degree in Population Studies from the University of Southampton, Catharine Gale obtained a Medical Research Council studentship and completed a PhD on the role of antioxidant vitamins in cerebrovascular disease and cognitive decline at the MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit (now the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit). Catharine currently leads work on cognitive function across the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology’s programmes of research. Since 2012, she has also held an academic position at the University of Edinburgh where she is co-leader of the Cognitive Epidemiology research group at the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology and Reader in Cognitive Epidemiology in the Department of Psychology.


BSc Population Studies, University of Southampton 1994

PhD, University of Southampton 1997

Appointments held

1997/2002 Research Fellow, MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton

2002/2007 Senior Research Fellow , MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton

2007/2010 Principal Research Fellow, MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton

2010/2014 Reader, MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton

2014/2015 Associate Professor, MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton

2015 Professor, MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton

2012 onwards Reader in Cognitive Epidemiology, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh






Research interests

Catharine’s current research has three main themes.

Resilience and vulnerability to frailty and its outcomes in later life. This research investigates lifecourse social and psychological risk factors for physical frailty in older people, and the biological and behavioural mechanisms that may underlie these associations, and examines whether psychological, social, biological, physical or behavioural factors can moderate the risk of adverse outcomes in people who are frail. This research is conducted in collaboration with colleagues at the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh, and uses data from several cohorts from the UK and USA.

Cognitive ability and negative emotions in relation to morbidity and mortality. Catharine co-leads a programme of work using data from several UK and overseas cohorts to investigate the mechanisms whereby lower cognitive ability in youth increases vulnerability to subsequent mental and physical ill health and earlier death. This includes investigation of potential behavioural or biological mediators of intelligence-health associations, examination of the extent to which negative emotional states or traits interact with intelligence to influence health or moderate its influence, and exploration of the hypothesis that body system integrity might underlie links between intelligence and mortality. She is leading a project which uses data from UK Biobank to investigate the extent to which shared genetic aetiology underlies associations between cognitive ability and health or negative emotional factors and health.

Influences on cognitive ability in childhood. Catharine has responsibility for the cognitive function component of the Southampton Women’s Survey children’s follow-up. Detailed cognitive testing of cohort members at age 6 years is nearly complete. These data will be used to examine influences on the children’s general intelligence and other domains of cognition, including exposures pre-conception, during pregnancy and early childhood.

Academic unit(s)

Human Development and Health Academic Units

Affiliate academic unit(s)

Human development and physiology Research group

Responsibilities in the Faculty of Medicine

Member of the Ethics Committee

Selector of medical students

External Responsibilities

Member of editorial board, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

Member of editorial board, Scientific Reports

Member of grant reviewing committee, Health Research Board, Ireland

Member of grant reviewing committee, Academy of Finland

Member of Steering Committee, Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh

External examiner, MSc Health Research Methods, University of Birmingham


Book Section(s)

Module leader (Dissertation) MSc Diabetes Best Practice

Lecturer, ‘Epidemiology - concepts, analysis, & applications’ MSc Public Health

Course co-ordinator and lecturer, ‘Intelligence, personality and health’, MA or BSc Psychology (University of Edinburgh)

Lecturer, ‘Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology’, MSc Psychology of Individual Differences (University of Edinburgh)

Lecturer, ‘Research skills’, MSc Psychological Research Skills (University of Edinburgh)

Course co-ordinator, ‘Literature review’ MA or BSc Psychology (University of Edinburgh)

Supervises undergraduate projects and dissertations for MSc courses.

Currently supervises 5 PhD students

Professor Catharine Gale
MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit,
(University of Southampton),
Southampton General Hospital,
SO16 6YD, UK.
Tel: 02380 764080. Fax: 02380 704021.

Room Number: SGH/MRC/MP95

Telephone: (023) 8077 7624 x180
Facsimile: (023) 8070 4021

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