Ana Maria Portugal

Former PhD student

Associate Research Fellow //



Research Interests

I’m a developmental neuroscientist who moved to the CBCD to study for a PhD researching the associations of early life visual experiences (i.e. daily use of touchscreens devices, like tablets and smartphones) on the development of visual attention and executive function, under the supervision of Dr. Tim J. Smith and Dr. Rachael Bedford. During my studies I was part of the TABLET Project team, and I was very happy to be involved in their public engagement activities on the topic of toddlers and touchscreens throughout my studies.

Recently, I moved to the Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, where I am working as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental behaviour genetics in the research group headed by Dr. Terje Falck-Ytter (the DIVE lab). I’m using data collected as part of an infant twin study to understand the etiological factors behind early brain and behavioral processes, including attention and behavioural control, in collaboration with Professor Angelica Ronald (head of the GEL Lab at the CBCD).

Further information about my research and collaborations can be found here:

The CINE Lab and TABLET website:

The DIVE Lab on Research Gate:…

The GEL Lab:



PhD Psychology

Birkbeck, University of London, 2016 – 2020

MSc Developmental Sciences (Distinction)

Birkbeck, University of London, 2015 – 2016

MSc Health Sciences (18/20)

University of Minho, 2011 – 2013

BSc Applied Biology (16/20)

University of Minho, 2008 – 2011



Peer-reviewed publications

Portugal, A. M., Bedford, R., Cheung, C. H., Mason, L., & Smith, T. J. (2021). Longitudinal touchscreen use across early development is associated with faster exogenous and reduced endogenous attention control. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 1-12.

Portugal, A.M.*, Bedford, R.*, Cheung, C.H.M., Gliga, T., Smith, T.J. (2020). Saliency-Driven Visual Search Performance in Toddlers With Low– vs High–Touch Screen Use. JAMA Pediatr. 2021;175(1):96–97. *joint first

Bast, N., Mason, L., Freitag, C.M., Portugal, A.M., Smith, T., Poustka, L., Banaschewski, T., Johnson, M., & EU-AIMS LEAP Group (2020). Saccade dysmetria indicates attenuated visual exploration in autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 62 (2), 149-159

Reis, J.*, Portugal, A.M.*, Fernandes, L., Afonso, N., Pereira, M., Sousa, N., & Dias, N. S. (2016). An alpha and theta intensive and short neurofeedback protocol for healthy aging working-memory training. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 8, 157. *joint first

Publications submitted and under review

Hendry, A., Agyapong, M.A., D'Souza, H., Frick, M.A., Portugal, A.M., Konke, L.A., Bedford, R., Smith, T.J., Karmiloff-Smith, A., Jones, E., Charman, T., & Brocki, K.C., Measurement Properties of a Novel Problem-Solving Task amongst 1½ to 4-year-olds. Under review in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology.


Published conference proceedings (presenting author)

Portugal, A.M., Bedford, R., Cheung, C., & Smith, T. (2019). Investigating the influence of early life touchscreen use on screen-based attention control. In Vision Sciences Society Nineteenth Annual Meeting, Journal of Vision Abstract Issue.  

Portugal, A.M., Mason, L., & Smith, T.. Assessing gaze data quality in a large multi-centre autism developmental cohort. In Radach, R., Deubel, H., Vorstius, C., & Hofmann (eds.), M. (2017). Abstracts of the 19th European Conference on Eye Movements.

Portugal, A.M., Ferreira, D.S., Reis, J., Pinho, F., & Dias, N. S. (2013). Cognitive Intervention Protocol for Age-Related Memory Impairments. In IEEE 2nd International Conference on Serious Games and Applications for Health (SeGAH), 1-6.


Funding and awards

JSPS London Short-Term Postdoctoral Fellowship (2019, granted but not taken, with Prof. Yusuke Moriguchi, Kyoto University)

Birkbeck Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) for PhD students completing their thesis (2019)

International Congress of Infant Studies (ICIS) travel award (2018)

RCUK-funded Birkbeck Researcher Engagement Development project (2018; co-authorship)

ESRC LIFE Study PhD Studentship (2015-2019; granted to Dr. Tim J. Smith)

FCT (Portuguese funding agency for science and technology) PhD Studentship (2015; granted but not taken, with Prof. Filomena Soares, University of Minho)