top of page



BSocSci, BA(Honours), MA, PhD

social-cognitive neuroscience; affective neuroscience and neuropsychology 


Dr Sahba Besharati

Dr Sahba Besharati is a neuropsychologist and senior lecturer in cognitive neuroscience at the Department of Psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). She is the cofounder and joint leader of Wits NeuRL (Neuroscience Research Laboratory) that aims to promote neurosciences research conducted in the South African Context. Sahba is a C1 rated researcher of the South African National Research Foundation (NRF). In 2021 she was selected as a Global Scholar for the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) in the Brain, Mind and Consciousness Program. She serves on the Editorial Board for the Neuroscience Division of Communications Biology with the Nature, Springer group and is currently an Early Career Editorial Fellow for historically excluded groups for the American Psychological Association (APA) journal Neuropsychology.

Sahba’s background is in psychology. She first obtained her undergraduate and honours degree in psychology and then trained in clinical neuropsychology and psychological research during her master’s degree in 2010, from the University of Cape Town (UCT). Sahba obtained a Commonwealth Scholarship to complete a split-site PhD in neuropsychology and neuroscience from UCT and King's College London, with a visiting placement at University College London, where she trained in clinical neuroimaging techniques to explore questions around bodily self-consciousness following brain injury. She later extended this work into the field of early childhood development during her Postdoctoral Fellowship at Wits.


Her research draws on interdisciplinary methods to investigate self-consciousness, emotion and social cognition in clinical, paediatric and healthy populations. Central questions include: How do we construct a sense of self? How do we lose this sense of self following brain damage and how does it develop during infancy, childhood and adolescence? How does our social context influence this construction of the self? Her research has resulted in the award of multiple accolades from esteemed organisations like the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, the British Psychological Society, the British Neuropsychological Society, and the internationally acclaimed journal eLife. Sahba has been actively involved in both capacity building in the neurosciences in Africa, as well as making research around the brain and behaviour accessible and interesting for a wider public audience.



Social-cognitive neuroscience, affective neuroscience and neuropsychology

My research draws on a social and embodied cognitive approach in the scientific understanding of self-consciousness and the bodily self. I am particularly interested in the relationship between self-awareness and social cognition (e.g. perspective taking, mentalization, Theory of Mind) in infancy, childhood and using clinical populations (e.g. stoke and traumatic brain injury). I draw on an integrative methodological approach, which incorporates neuropsychological testing, experimental and neuroimaging methods, to explore how neurocognitive abilities, neural mechanisms and the social environment work together for the development of self-awareness. 

Research outputs 
bottom of page