SANE study PhD opportunity

The Vulnerable Self: A Neurophenomenological Model of the Onset of Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders

A PhD opportunity is available to be embedded within this larger project.

Early identification and intervention for schizophrenia and other psychoses is a key focus in psychiatry. It remains unclear what the “core” disturbances of schizophrenia are, which hampers early identification and intervention strategies. Findings from recent phenomenological, neurocognitive and neuroscience research converge around the concept of disturbed “basic” self- awareness as a core feature of schizophrenia spectrum disorders. This refers to a disruption in the automatic, implicit sense of ownership of one’s experience and sense of agency, expressed in a range of anomalous cognitive, bodily and interpersonal experiences. Although the phenomenological, neurocognitive and neuroscience research findings have been highly congruent, the link between these domains with regard to basic self-disturbance has not yet been directly tested.

This current study will be the first to directly empirically test this integrated neurophenomenological self-disturbance model. The study will assess the relationship between phenomenological, neurocognitive and neurophysiological measures of basic self-disturbance in four samples: 1. Patients at high risk of psychosis (N=400), 2. Patients with first episode psychosis (n=150), 3. Patients with non-psychotic disorders (N=100), 4. Healthy control participants (N=50).

The relationship between these measures will be analysed as well as their prognostic implications in high risk and first episode psychosis samples. A prediction model developed at Australian study sites will be tested for external validity in independent patient samples. The research will enhance understanding of core cross-domain features of schizophrenia, result in a clinical tool for improved identification of young people at high risk of progressing to psychotic disorders, and point towards mechanism-based treatment targets.

It is essential that applicants meet the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and  Health Science’s requirements for Graduate Research candidature.

Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences PhD course information:

For more info, please contact Prof Barnaby Nelson.