Rosalind M Ridley MA, PhD, ScD

Current positions:

Former Fellow and Tutor, Newnham College
Former Head, Medical Research Council Comparative Cognition Team, Department of Experimental Psychology, Cambridge University

Current interests:

Although I retain an interest in biological science, my main retirement activity is art, especially painting. I paint mainly in watercolours and occasionally in oils, and I enjoy pencil drawing. I am a member of the Cambridge Drawing Society, the Cambridge District Art Circle and the Royston Art Society. My interest in art and its relation to my previous career as a neuroscientist is described in a recent interview in 'Bodies of Work' in Women and the Arts, Volume 2, reproduced here by kind permission of the Arts Society of Newnham College, Cambridge. I also have an interest in the works of J.M. Barrie and have published a book on the cognitive psychology that can be found in the stories of Peter Pan.


After graduating in 1971 from Newnham College , Cambridge, I studied for a PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry, London where I worked on the neurophysiological basis of visual agnosia and neuropsychological aspects of somatosensory perception and spatial orientation. I moved, in 1977, to the MRC Clinical Research Centre, Harrow and worked on the behavioural and cognitive effects of dopaminergic overactivity in relation to the symptoms of psychosis and on the effects of cholinergic blockade in relation to learning impairment. I was also involved in studies of the transmissibility of diseases subsequently known as prion disease, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy and scrapie. I was part of a team which studied the genetics of prion disease and was particularly interested in the genetic control of age at onset in a wide variety of adult onset diseases, including Huntington’s disease.

In 1994, I moved with Harry Baker (my colleague and husband) and our group from the Clinical Research Centre to the Department of Experimental Psychology, Cambridge. I became Head of the MRC Comparative Cognition Team. Our interests were aimed mainly at understanding mechanisms of repair and restitution of function in the brain including transplantation of dopaminergic, cholinergic and glutamatergic neural tissue; neuroprotective treatments for cerebral ischaemia and pharmacological substitution for cholinergic cell loss or glutamatergic blockade. Specific psychological interests included the nature of the differences between perceptual and motor neglect, the difference between conditional and simple discrimination learning and the levels of mental representation required to solve different types of cognitive task. We retained our interest in prion diseases, especially in the question of maternal transmission.

Harry and I retired from the Medical Research Council in September 2005. I retired from Newnham College in September 2010
and now enjoy the privileges of a Fellow Emerita.