Psychiatry

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Projects Title Research Node (Project Site) Department Project Description Number of Places Available (Masters) Number of Places Available (Honours) Primary Supervisor UoM Staff ID Number Primary Supervisor Title Primary Supervisor First Name Primary Supervisor Surname Primary Supervisor Email Co-Supervisor 1 Title Co-Supervisor 1 First Name Co-Supervisor 1 Surname Co-Supervisor 2 Title Co-Supervisor 2 First Name Co-Supervisor 2 Surname Co-Supervisor 3 Title Co-Supervisor 3 First Name Co-Supervisor 3 Surname Additional Supervisors (Please include the title and full name) Opportunity
Animal models of Brain Development assessed using histology Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Cognitive and memory deficits underlie and, in some cases, precede the diagnosis of many neuropsychiatric disorders from depression to autism and schizophrenia. The hippocampus is a key brain region responsible for cognitive and memory processing. The aim of the current project is to model hippocampal functioning in the mouse brain using a combination of histological and biochemical techniques, and to determine whether differences are present between age groups. Professor Christos Pantelis cpant@unimelb.edu.au Dr Liliana Laskaris n/a PhD students; Masters by Research
Animal models of Brain Development assessed using MRI Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry A newly commenced Program Grant aims to map brain-structure-function relationships and molecular signatures across developmental stages in the mouse, as measured through novel neuroimaging techniques and microscopy. The aim of the current project is to model hippocampal structure in the mouse brain using a combination of structural and spectroscopy neuroimaging techniques, and to determine whether differences are present between age groups. 1 Prof Christos Pantelis cpant@unimelb.edu.au Dr Warda Taqdees Syeda n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Honours students
Brain development and the pathophysiology of psychosis Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry This PhD project will conduct a program of research that investigates brain developmental changes associated with the emergence and pathophysiology of psychotic disorders. Dr Vanessa Cropley vcropley@unimelb.edu.au n/a PhD students
Brain mapping: Brain atlases with multiple topographic features Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Map innovative atlases of the human brain that incorporate multiple topographic features Associate Professor Andrew Zalesky azalesky@unimelb.edu.au Dr Ye Tian n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Post Doctor Researchers
Brain stimulation and clinical translation Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Develop innovative brain stimulation therapies for depression and other psychiatric disorders based on new knowledge of aberrant brain circuits and systems Associate Professor Andrew Zalesky azalesky@unimelb.edu.au Dr Robin Cash n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Post Doctor Researchers
Cerebellar grey and white matter changes in children with Autism spectrum disorders Psychiatry Recent evidence suggests that the cerebellum may be a key site of neuropathology in individuals with Autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and may therefore play a critical role in the symptoms that characterise these disorders. This study will examine cerebellar grey matter and white matter changes during maturation and with the emergence of ASD symptoms. Professor Christos Pantelis cpant@unimelb.edu.au Professor Stan Skafidas n/a PhD students
Characterizing brain-body relationship with respect to biological aging in elderly population Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry This project aims to comprehensively characterize patterns of aging in various human biological systems including the brain and other organ systems such as the cardiovascular, respiratory and skeleton systems, and to understand the relationship between the brain and the body with respect to the aging trajectory and health outcomes. Dr Ye Tian ye.tian2@unimelb.edu.au Dr Vanessa Cropley A/Prof Andrew Zalesky n/a Masters by Research; Honours students; Master of Biomedical Science
Cognition and brain connectivity in psychosis Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry The aim of this project is to determine whether impairments in episodic memory, attentional set-shifting, and spatial working memory are related to disrupted brain connectivity (as measured by MRI-derived structural covariance; see Wannan et al, 2019) in key regions associated with performance on these tasks in individuals with first-episode psychosis. 1 Prof Christos Pantelis cpant@unimelb.edu.au Ms Cassandra Wannan n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Honours students
Cognitive training for behavioural and psychological symptoms in young onset dementia Royal Women’s Hospital Psychiatry This project focused on the development and evaluation of an intervention targeting BPSD in people with young onset dementia Dr Alex Bahar-Fuchs alex.bahar@unimelb.edu.au n/a Masters by Research
Computational neuroscience: Simulating brain dynamics and generative modelling of brain networks Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Simulate a person's brain activity based on their connectome and develop models to grow brain networks in silico Associate Professor Andrew Zalesky azalesky@unimelb.edu.au Dr Caio Seguin n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Post Doctor Researchers
Decoding neural mechanisms underpinning human cognition in health and disease using machine learning Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry This project aims to understand the neural mechanisms underpinning higher-order cognitive function in humans. This student will be guided in using state-of-the-art neuroimaging techniques and machine learning to decipher the complex network of brain circuits that give rise to individual variation in cognition in healthy adults as well as abnormal brain changes associated with cognitive decline in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment. 1 1 Dr Ye Tian ye.tian2@unimelb.edu.au A/Prof Andrew Zalesky Dr Vanessa Cropley n/a Masters by Research; Honours students; Master of Biomedical Science
Effective relationships in dementia community care: Promoting Independence though quality dementia care at home (the PITCH project). Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry This project focuses on developing a three-way triad tool (person with dementia, family carer, home care worker) to improve communication and relationships in community dementia care. This project will involve data collection in a RCT, developing the tool, and validity and reliability testing. Dr Anita Goh goha@unimelb.edu.au Professor Briony Dow Dr Steven Savvas n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Post Doctor Researchers
Exploring data from ENROLL-HD - an international observational study in Huntington’s disease Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Enroll-HD is a worldwide observational study for Huntington’s disease families, which monitors how the disease appears and changes over time in different people, and is open to people who either have HD or are at-risk. There are more than 23,000 participants that have been enrolled into Enroll-HD and over 1 million aliquots of DNA, lymphoblastoid cell lines and PBMCs that are available for research. This project involves data mining of the latest periodic dataset release. Dr Anita Goh goha@unimelb.edu.au Professor Dennis Velakoulis Dr Samantha Loi n/a Masters by Research
Ferroptosis in Schizophrenia Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health Psychiatry Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental illness that disrupts the functioning of the mind, with onset typically occurring in young adulthood. Impairments in certain cognitive functions, such as working memory, are core features of Sz, which are not addressed for existing drug targets. Our general hypothesis is that schizophrenia is a complex disease resulting from a loss-of-function of key pathways that govern neurodevelopment, neurotransmission, intracellular redox state and synaptic connectivity. Our data indicate that iron is elevated in the orbitofrontal cortex in post mortem brain samples from individuals with schizophrenia relative to age- and sex-matched controls. We propose that a rise of cytosolic iron is upstream of key lesions associated with negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, including neuronal development (e.g., parvalbumin-interneurons and synaptic pruning), neurotransmission (e.g., GABAergic and glutamatergic pathways), as well as iron homeostasis, antioxidant defence (e.g., haem oxygenases), and ferroptosis (e.g., an iron-dependent pathway for lipid peroxidation recently associated with loss of parvalbumin-interneurons). The project aims to investigate the status of proteins involved in iron metabolim as well as levels of markers of oxidative stress. 1 2 Professor Christos Pantelis cpant@unimelb.edu.au Professor Ashley Bush Dr Carlos Opazo n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Honours students; Master of Biomedical Science
Identifying state and trait components of sensory and motor disturbances across the schizophrenia spectrum Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Sensorimotor dysfunction is frequently observed in people with schizophrenia as well as their unaffected relatives, which has led to proposals that these disturbances represent a vulnerability (or trait feature) of the disorder. However, there are reports that sensorimotor signs may also represent state features. This study will examine the heterogeneity of sensorimotor dysfunction across the schizophrenia-spectrum by identifying unique and causal links between specific sensorimotor signs and trait and state features of psychotic illness. 1 1 Dr Vanessa Cropley vcropley@unimelb.edu.au n/a Masters by Research; Honours students; Master of Biomedical Science
Machine learning prediction of brain and body ageing Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Your brain and other organs may be older (or younger) than your chronological age! Why? Associate Professor Andrew Zalesky azalesky@unimelb.edu.au Dr Ye Tian Dr Vanessa Cropley n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Post Doctor Researchers
Mapping cerebellar connectivity in neurodevelopmental disorders Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Recent evidence suggests that the cerebellum may be a key site of neuropathology in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This study will examine both the direct effects of cerebellar pathology, and the role of cerebello-cortical circuitry, on the aetiology of ASD symptoms. Professor Christos Pantelis cpant@unimelb.edu.au Professor Stan Skafidas n/a PhD students
Markers in Neuropsychiatric Disorders (MiND) study Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry The Markers in Neuropsychiatric Disorders (MiND) aims to study whether neurofilament light and other biomarkers, clinical, cognitive, imaging and other markers can improve diagnosis, prognostication, care and treatment, and health economic outcomes, for people with cognitive, neuropsychiatric and neurological symptoms. By studying a broad range of symptoms and conditions, from neurodegenerative dementias such as Alzheimer disease and behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, to many other neurological and neurodegenerative disorders, to schizophrenia and other severe psychiatric illnesses, the MiND study ultimately aims for clinical translation such as a screening blood test and precision care use of biomarkers and other markers, to improve outcomes for patients, their families, clinical trials and healthcare systems. Prof Dennis Velakoulis dennisv@unimelb.edu.au Dr Dhamidhu Eratne n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Post Doctor Researchers
Multinuclear MRI biomarkers in schizophrenia Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Schizophrenia is a debilitating neuropsychiatric disorder characterised by positive symptoms (delusions, hallucinations), negative symptoms (lack of motivation, poverty of speech), cognitive deficits and impaired social and occupational functioning. The aetiology of schizophrenia remains unknown and the mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of schizophrenia are poorly understood. Previous studies have identified altered brain metabolism as one of the putative mechanisms contributing to schizophrenia, partly due to neuroinflammation and pathological oxidative processes. However, there is a paucity of research investigating oxidative and neuroinflammatory processes in the brain in vivo. Sodium (23Na) MRI is an emerging metabolic imaging technique that employs ultra-high field MRI (7T and above) to characterise tissue sodium content, and together with iron (1H) MRI provides an invaluable tool to investigate brain structure and chemical composition in the living brain. By employing advanced multivariate statistical techniques, this program of work aims to combine complementary information from clinical, cognitive and biological data in order to identify unique patterns of cognition and structural changes associated with schizophrenia. 2 2 Professor Christos Pantelis cpant@unimelb.edu.au Dr Warda Syeda Associate Professor Mahesh Jayaram n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Honours students
Network communication in the brain Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Use network science to understand how information is communicated in nervous systems Associate Professor Andrew Zalesky azalesky@unimelb.edu.au Dr Caio Seguin n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Post Doctor Researchers
Neurodevelopmental trajectories and biopsychosocial risk factors in autism and schizophrenia Psychiatry Children with neurodevelopmental disorders often have worse outcomes than typically developing children on a range of measures, including education, mental health, social dysfunction, vocational achievement, and conduct problems. Furthermore, overlap between the symptoms of many neurodevelopmental disorders, along with intra-illness heterogeneity, results in frequent misdiagnosis, ineffective treatment, and increased disability in affected children. There is therefore an urgent need to identify biopsychosocial markers that characterise specific neurodevelopmental disorders and impact on illness severity and outcomes. The key aims of our research are therefore to (1) map the developmental trajectories of cognition, behaviour, and brain structure and function in autism-spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizotypal disorder of childhood (SDC) over critical periods of brain development, and (2) identify the candidate biopsychosocial risk/resilience markers that might impact these trajectories and illness outcomes. Our work will consider a range of biopsychosocial markers, including genetics, inflammation, clinical profiles, early life stress and physiological stress reactivity, and psychosocial indices such as socioeconomic status and parenting styles. 2 2 Professor Christos Pantelis cpant@unimelb.edu.au Dr Cassandra Wannan n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Honours students; Master of Biomedical Science
Olfactory-focused cognitive training Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry The successful candidate in this project will help develop and evaluate an olfactory training paradigm suitable for use with cognitively impaired older adults. Dr Alex Bahar-Fuchs alex.bahar@unimelb.edu.au n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Post Doctor Researchers
Role of the family environment in shaping children's brains and mental health Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry The family environment, and in particular, the relationship between a child and their parent/s, has a significant role in shaping children's development and susceptibility to mental health problems. Emerging research suggests that parents impact their children's development via shaping their brain maturation. This project will utilise gold-standard observational data to investigate associations between real-world parenting behaviours, brain development and mental health in children. As data from this project has already been collected (N=160 participants), the student will work on analysis of the observational, neuroimaging and mental health data. 1 A/Prof Sarah Whittle swhittle@unimelb.edu.au n/a Honours students
Socioeconomic status and sleep in late childhood Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Healthy sleep is critical for good health, including mental health and cognitive function. Low socioeconomic status is associated with altered sleep, however the factors driving this association remain unclear. Using a multidimensional assessment of SES and sleep, this study aims to identify the unique factors of SES that are associated with sleep problems in late childhood. It may also examine the factors of SES that influence the association between poor sleep and later socioemotional adjustment and cognitive functioning. 1 1 Dr Vanessa Cropley vcropley@unimelb.edu.au Ms Rebecca Cooper n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Honours students; Master of Biomedical Science
Symptom comorbidity networks in psychiatry Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Investigate causal links between psychiatric symptoms and cognition across mental illnesses Dr Vanessa Cropley vcropley@unimelb.edu.au Associate Professor Andrew Zalesky n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Post Doctor Researchers
Synthesising, dismantling and optimising cognitive interventions Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry We offer a unique opportunity to learn advanced meta-analysis techniques and lead high impact work that changes clinical practice. Location is flexible. Dr Amit Lampit amit.lampit@unimelb.edu.au n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Post Doctor Researchers
The influence of sleep on brain development and psychopathology over adolescence Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Healthy sleep is critical for good health, including brain health. This study will examine the impact of sleep on the development of brain structure over adolescence and examine whether changes in these relationships increase the risk for the later development of psychopathology. Dr Vanessa Cropley vcropley@unimelb.edu.au AProf Sarah Whittle Ms Rebecca Cooper n/a PhD students; Masters by Research
The neurobiology of anxiety across development and sex Royal Children’s Hospital/Murdoch Childrens Research Institute Psychiatry This study aims to characterise the neurobiology of fear learning (a key mechanism in anxiety) in children, adolescents and adults, and investigate the role of pubertal hormones. Knowledge gained will have implications for understanding the etiology and treatment of anxiety disorders. Associate Professor Sarah Whittle swhittle@unimelb.edu.au n/a PhD students
Ubiquitin Proteasome System in Schizophrenia Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health Psychiatry The ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) is a master regulator of neural development and the maintenance of brain structure and function. It influences neurogenesis, synaptogenesis and neurotransmission by determining the localization, interaction and turnover of scaffolding, presynaptic and postsynaptic proteins. Moreover, UPS signalling transduces epigenetic changes in neurons independent of protein degradation and as such dysfunction of components and/or substrates of this system have been linked to a broad range of brain conditions. Although links between UPS dysfunction and neurodegenerative disorders have been known for some time, only recently have similar links emerged for neurodevelopmental disorders, such as schizophrenia. We and others have found that diffeerent components of the UPS are dysregulated in schizophrenia. The project aims to investigate whether specific poly-ubiquitin changes are altered in brain samples from individuals with schizhophrenia. 1 2 Professor Christos Pantelis cpant@unimelb.edu.au Professor Ashley Bush Dr Carlos Opazo n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Honours students; Master of Biomedical Science
Using Graph Theory and Neural Stem Cell Models to Understand Brain Network Resilience Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry The human brain is a profoundly complex system composed of robust and efficient connections, eloquently arranged to buffer against targeted attack. This project brings together network science (graph theory) and cutting-edge stem cell technologies to uncover the mechanisms that actively counteract risk (i.e., maximise resilience) and preserve brain function following targeted attack. This project is suited to an individual with a strong computationalengineering background. Experience in either developmental neurobiology or application of high-end microscopy is desired but not essential. 1 1 Dr Maria Di Biase dibiasem@unimelb.edu.au AProf. Andrew Zalesky Prof. Alice Pébay n/a PhD students; Masters by Research; Honours students
When might the brain go wrong: the role of immune cells at critical time-points during development Royal Melbourne Hospital Psychiatry Multiple neuropsychiatric disorders from autism to depression and schizophrenia are characterised by altered brain connectivity and synaptic functioning. Key players in the development of synaptic connections are the brain’s immune cells, the microglia. The aim of this project is to utilise a mouse model to identify specific neurodevelopmental stages when the brain is most vulnerable to microglial activity. Professor Christos Pantelis cpant@unimelb.edu.au Dr Liliana Laskaris n/a PhD students; Masters by Research