A photo of Catherine Lebel

Dr. Catherine Lebel, PhD

Pronouns: she/her


Associate Professor

Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Radiology

Adjunct Associate Professor

Werklund School of Education

Child Brain & Mental Health Program Director

Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute

Child Health & Wellness Researcher

Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute, Owerko Centre

Full Member

Hotchkiss Brain Institute

Full Member

Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education

Contact information

Phone number

Office: 403.955.7241

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Educational Background

B.Sc. Medical Biophysics, University of Western Ontario, 2004

Doctor of Philosophy Medical Sciences, University of Alberta, 2010


Areas of Research

Brain Development
Neurodevelopmental disorders

My research uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study brain development in children and adolescents. Using a variety of MRI techniques, I study how brain structure and function change with age, or in response to treatments and interventions. I am specifically interested in how brain maturation and brain plasticity are related to cognition and behaviour, and how these relationships may be different in children with developmental disorders. The aim of my research is to better understand brain changes, with the ultimate goal of providing earlier identification and more effective treatments for children with developmental disorders.

Participation in university strategic initiatives


Prenatal stress and child brain development

We study the impacts of prenatal stress, anxiety, and depression on children's outcomes including brain structure and function. One part of this theme is a large study of prenatal stress during COVID-19, the Pregnancy during the COVID-19 Pandemic study. 

We study children's brain structure and function primarily using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure brain volumes, cortical thickness, as well as structural and functional connectivity. 

Prenatal alcohol exposure

We study brain differences in children who have prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). PAE can lead to long-lasting cognitive, behavioural, and neurological difficulties, including structural brain alterations. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), the neurodevelopmental disorder associated with PAE, is estimated to affect 4% of Canadians. 

We use MRI to detail changes in brain volume, structural connectivity, and functional connectivity in children and youth with PAE, and link that to behaviour and mental health. 

Typical brain development

My lab aims to characterize typical brain development across childhood using MRI. We use both standard and advanced methods to detail structural and functional changes from early childhood (~2 years+) to adolescence. 

We also look at links between this typical brain development and cognitive skills such as reading ability, or pre-reading language skills in young children. 


  • Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars, Artists & Scientists, 2020
  • Canada Research Chair in Pediatric Neuroimaging, 2018
  • Calgary Top 40 Under 40, 2016