Cognitive Neuropsychiatry: current projects

1. Genes, symptoms and cognition

Aim
Psychotic disorders (bipolar, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder) include a broad range of symptoms and multiple genes have been found to relate to the presence of these disorders.  This large scale study is attempting to identify genes that underlie specific symptoms of these disorders.  These include auditory hallucinations and thought disorder.

Participants
(1) Individuals with a diagnosis of bipolar, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder

(2) Their first degree relatives (siblings or parents)

(3) Healthy unaffected individuals with no family history of psychotic illness

Methods
Cognitive testing, blood taking for genetic testing and non-invasive brain scanning (MRI)

Project status
Ongoing

Researchers
Susan Rossell
Caroline Gurvich
Wei Lin Toh
Erica Neill
Eric Tan
Tamsyn Van Rheenen
Kiymet Bozaoglu
Philip Sumner
Sean Carruthers
Elizabeth Thomas
 

2. Too stressed to think clearly?

Aim
The purpose of this project is to learn more about biological and psychological contributors to stress and difficulties thinking clearly. Click here for more information.

Participants
Healthy participants between the ages of 18-45

Methods
Cognitive testing, blood taking and saliva collection.

Project status
Currently recruiting

Researchers
Dr Caroline Gurvich
Elizabeth Thomas
Dane Easden
Ratu Lucky

 

3. Semantic memory (SM) in psychosis

Aim
Semantic memory is a type of memory that stores factual information about the world (for example, it allows you to recognise that a furry, four legged barking animal is a dog).  Previous work by Professor Rossell has shown that semantic memory is impaired in psychotic illnesses (schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder) and that it is related to the presence of psychotic symptoms like delusions (unusual ideas) and abnormal speech (thought disorder). We are currently examining how semantic memory functions in healthy people.  Our healthy participants will be asked to complete a questionnaire which asks about mild psychosis like experiences (questions like: Are your thoughts sometimes so strong that you can almost hear them?) to see if these experiences in healthy people also relate to abnormal semantic memory.

Participants
Healthy participants between the ages of 30-65

Methods
Participants will complete a number of tasks that measure semantic memory 

Project status
Ongoing

Researchers
Professor Susan Rossell and her team

 

4. Understanding auditory hallucinations

Aim
Patients with auditory hallucinations show auditory and cortical abnormalities not present in other psychosis patients with no auditory hallucination history. This project is seeking to further clarify these changes.

Participants
Patients with psychosis and their relatives.

Methods
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and auditory and cognitive tasks.

Project status 
Ongoing

Researchers
Susan Rossell
Neil Thomas
Wei Lin Toh
Rachel Mitchell (Durham University)
Henry Jackson
Chris Groot

 

5. Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT)

Aim
Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT) is designed to improve cognitive abilities such as attention, working memory, cognitive flexibility and planning, as well as executive functioning, with the eventual goal of improved social functioning, especially for individuals with a severe mental illness.

Participants
Individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder

Methods
Cognitive training using software, such as COGPACK

Project status
Ongoing

Researchers
Susan Rossell
Stuart Lee
Natalia Contreras
Shayden Bryce
Maree Reser

 

 MAPrc Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Level 4, 607 St Kilda Road, Melbourne 3004

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