Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health

In May 2020 we focused on MARC members from Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health.

Launched in July 2019, the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health is the result of a transformational gift by the late David Winston Turner to detect and treat mental health conditions, improving the lives of millions of sufferers.

The vision of Turner Institute is to become the leading brain and mental health research institution in Asia-Pacific, with a global footprint. Research at the Turner Institute is represented by three overarching themes – Developing WellLiving Well, and Ageing Well. We work side-by-side with our communities to build resilient, healthy brains early in life and to develop tools to promote healthy lifestyles and maintain brain health as we age.

Addiction research at the Turner Institute

The Addiction and Mental Health program at the Turner Institute is working to understand fundamental brain processes that underpin mental ill-health, such as substance abuse, problem gambling, depression, anxiety and compulsive eating. We then translate these findings into clinical, lifestyle and technology-based interventions and treatments that actually work, and are cost-effective and accessible. Much of this work is undertaken at our purpose-built next-generation mental health research facility, BrainPark.

At the same time, we are investigating the interplay of neuroscience and society, as well as ethical treatment and research. We work across academia, health care, industry and the community, to conduct impactful research and to translate findings into tangible outcomes that will benefit all Australians.

Prof Kim Cornish

Professor Kim Cornish is the Foundation Director of the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health and the Head of the School of Psychological Sciences, a position she has held since 2011. In November 2019 Prof Cornish was awarded the prestigious position of Sir John Monash Distinguished Professor for her distinguished career spanning more than two decades as a passionate research and teaching academic and as a leader at Monash.

A Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Professor Cornish’s research has been published in leading international journals, including Brain and Neurology. Her work has been lauded for advancing research knowledge and developing new approaches to treating pervasive cognitive deficits in children with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and Down Syndrome. This work was the catalyst for the development of a novel and interactive digital technology, designed by Professor Cornish and her team at Monash, to help detect and train attention skills in early life.

Professor Cornish is a thought-leader on the potential for digital technology to support mental health within the community. Read Professor Cornish’s recent article ‘Hope for High Tech Health’.

Associate Professor Adrian Carter is the Director of Community Engagement and Neuroethics at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, Monash University. His research examines the impact of neuroscience on our understanding and treatment of addiction, mental illness and neurological disorders, including agency, identity, moral responsibility, privacy, stigma and discrimination, the use of coercion and the capacity for the voluntary control of behaviours; and the use of emerging technologies such as brain stimulation, brain-computer interfaces, wearables and neuroimaging, to treat mental illness. He received the Australasian Professional Society of Alcohol and Other Drugs “Early Career Award for Excellence in Research and Science” (2012) and the Australian National Drug and Alcohol Award for Excellence in Research (2010). He has over 140 publications, including the book ‘Addiction Neuroethics: The Promises and Perils of Addiction Neuroscience’ (Cambridge University Press, 2012). A/Prof Carter has been an advisor to the World Health Organization, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the Australian Ministerial Council on Drugs Strategy and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

A/Prof Carter currently collaborates with MARC members on the following projects:

Do "losses disguised as wins" in Australian pokies cause harm?

MARC Co-investigators: Prof Murat Yucel (Brain Park)

AI for Older Australians in Aged-Care Facilities: Challenges and Opportunities

MARC Co-investigators: A/Prof Kate Seear (Faculty of Law)

Prof Sean Drummond

Professor Sean Drummond is the Director of the Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Research Theme within the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health. Prof Drummond has three main arms to his program of research: 1) cognitive neuroscience of sleep and sleep deprivation; 2) treatment of insomnia, especially in comorbid psychopathology; and 3) translational research examining the mechanistic role sleep plays in PTSD and mood disorders. With respect to cognitive neuroscience, his studies manipulate sleep deprivation in healthy adults and measure the consequent cognitive and cerebral changes through behavioural and cognitive testing, functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), and EEG. His work also includes healthy older adults and clinical populations such as obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia. He is interested in a number of cognitive performance domains, particularly decision making, attention, executive function (broadly defined) and learning/memory. Prof Drummond's clinical research focuses on the treatment of insomnia in various contexts. His translational research examines the interaction of sleep, sleep disruption, and psychiatric symptoms. In particular, he is interested in understanding the mechanistic role sleep plays in development, maintenance, and treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and mood disorders.

Prof Murat Yucel presenting at the MARC 2019 Symposium

Pictured: Prof Murat Yucel presenting at the MARC 2019 Symposium

Professor Murat Yucel is the Leader of the Addiction and Mental Health research program and the Director of BrainPark. He is an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow and holds the David Winston Turner Chair in Addiction and Mental Health Research.

Over two decades, Prof Yucel has worked at the interface between clinical neuropsychology, psychiatry, neuroscience and technology. His research team adopt a 'trans-diagnostic' approach to investigate whether the initiation and maintenance of substance and behavioural addictions, as well as, obsessive-compulsive disorder are underpinned by overlapping cognitive and motivational tendencies, and brain substrates (e.g., those related to impulsivity and compulsivity). In 2015, 2017-2019, Prof Yucel was named in the world's “Most Highly Cited” authors reflecting that his groups work is in the top 1% of the world’s most influential scientific work over a 10-year period.

His research group at BrainPark are also combining lifestyle, psychological and technology-based interventions (such as physical exercise, mindfulness mediation, yoga, virtual reality, cognitive training, and gentle brain stimulation) to enhance therapeutic outcomes and create accessible treatments that can be engaging, effective and self-administered.

Prof Yucel currently collaborates with MARC members on the following projects:

Do "losses disguised as wins" in Australian pokies cause harm?

MARC Co-investigators: A/Prof Adrian Carter (Turner Institute)

Efficacy of a 3-month aerobic exercise regime for restoring 'brain health' in heavy cannabis users

MARC Co-investigators: Prof Dan Lubman (Turning Point & MARC), Dr Rebecca Segrave (Turner Institute)

A transdiagnostic dimensional approach towards a neuropsychological assessment for warfighter cognitive fitness: an international Delphi consensus study

MARC Co-Investigators: Dr Lucy Albertella and Dr Rico Lee (BrainPark)

BrainPAC: Validating a neurocognitive framework and developing a purpose-built assessment tool for addictions

MARC Co-Investigators: Prof Murat Yücel (BrainPark)

Prof Antonio Verdejo-Garcia presenting at the MARC 2019 Symposium

Pictured: Prof Antonio Verdejo-Garcia presenting at the MARC 2019 Symposium

Professor Antonio Verdejo-Garcia is a Professor (Research) in the School of Psychological Sciences and the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health. He is also an Australian Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Next Generation of Clinical Researchers CDF2 Fellow, and the Co-Chair of the Neuroscience Interest Group at the International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM-NIG). He has an Adjunct Honorary Appointment in Turning Point (Eastern Health).

Prof Verdejo-Garcia’s research focuses on the cognitive and neural mechanisms underpinning executive control and decision-making, and their implications for substance and behavioural addictions, compulsive eating and obesity. Current projects include research on the decision-making alterations linked to methamphetamine addiction, the social cognitive substrates of the comorbidity between addiction and borderline personality disorder, and novel cognitive training interventions for alcohol and methamphetamine use disorders. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles, edited a book on Cognition & Addiction (Academic Press, 2020), and his research has been continuously funded via national and international competitive research schemes.

Prof Verdejo-Garcia received a 2019 MARC Interdisciplinary Seed Funding Grant for his project titled ‘Goal Management Training for Methamphetamine Addiction’.

Prof Verdejo-Garcia currently collaborates with MARC members on the following projects:

Determining the feasibility and efficacy of Goal Management Training for improving treatment retention and outcomes during residential treatment for methamphetamine dependence

MARC Co-investigators: Prof Dan Lubman (Turning Point & MARC)

A randomised controlled trial of Cognitive Bias Modification training during early recovery from alcohol dependence

MARC Co-investigators: Prof Dan Lubman (Turning Point & MARC), A/Prof Victoria Manning (Turning Point)

Associate Professor Marie Yap is researcher at the Turner Institute. She is a Psychologist with expertise in parenting and youth mental health. Her research interests in parenting are two-fold: 1) increasing our understanding of specific family processes and the mechanisms by which they influence young people's mental health; and 2) translating existing research evidence into credible, accessible resources for parents to help them reduce their child's risk of developing mental health problems. She is the lead investigator of the Parenting Strategies program www.parentingstrategies.net, which has been developed to provide parents with actionable strategies endorsed by research evidence and experts in the field to help them protect their child's mental health. Her current projects include ‘Parenting Strategies: Preventing Adolescent Alcohol Misuse’. Which provides parenting guidelines for adolescent alcohol use, as well as an interactive, web-based parenting program that tailors the guidelines recommendations for individual parents' needs and supports parents in their attempts to implement these recommendations. Pilot data demonstrates that parents find the program useful, reporting that they have made significant changes in their parenting after accessing the program.

A/Prof Yap currently collaborates with MARC members on the following projects:

Centre of Research Excellence in Childhood Adversity and Associated Depression and Anxiety

MARC Co-investigators: Prof Andrea Reupert (Faculty of Education)

Dr Lucy Albertella completed her PhD in 2017 at UNSW Sydney (School of Public Health and Community Medicine). She is currently a Research Fellow at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, where she is investigating the cognitive drivers of compulsive and addiction-related behaviours. Her research interests include Exercise and other lifestyle modifications on compulsivity and related brain functioning

Dr Albertella currently collaborates with MARC members on the following projects:

A transdiagnostic dimensional approach towards a neuropsychological assessment for warfighter cognitive fitness: an international Delphi consensus study

MARC Co-Investigators: Prof Murat Yücel and Dr Lucy Albertella (BrainPark)

Dr Bei Bei is an NHMRC Health Professional Research Fellow at Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, Clinical Psychologist and Research Lead at Monash University Healthy Sleep Clinic, and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Centre for Women's Mental Health, Royal Women's Hospital.  Her research and clinical work focus on the individual differences in sleep-wake behaviours, the relationship between sleep and mental health, and psychological interventions for better sleep.

Dr Rico Sze Chun Lee is the Head of the Decision-Making Group at BrainPark. He leads the BrainPAC Project – a Monash-led partnership with industry to innovate digital assessment tools to better understand and more effectively measure and monitor decision-making mechanisms across addictive disorders. The early outcomes of The BrainPAC Project have already led to successful NHMRC Project Grant funding in 2018 to scale up the project internationally to 10,000 people. Dr Lee was recently awarded an NHMRC Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Priority Round Investigator Grant (2021-25) as an Emerging Leadership Fellow. This will see him implement the BrainPAC app to generate new knowledge about the neurocognitive and motivational mechanisms driving addictive behaviours, as well as determine the effectiveness of a feedback monitoring system in promoting treatment engagement and better outcomes.

Dr Rico Lee currently collaborates with MARC members on the following projects: 

BrainPAC: Validating a neurocognitive framework and developing a purpose-built assessment tool for addictions

MARC Co-Investigators: Prof Murat Yücel (BrainPark)

A transdiagnostic dimensional approach towards a neuropsychological assessment for warfighter cognitive fitness: an international Delphi consensus study

MARC Co-Investigators: Prof Murat Yücel and Dr Lucy Albertella (BrainPark)

Efficacy of a 3-month aerobic exercise regime for restoring 'brain health' in heavy cannabis users

MARC Co-Investigators: Prof Murat Yücel (BrainPark), Dr Rebecca Segrave (BrainPark) and Prof Dan Lubman (Turning Point & MARC)

Pictured: Dr Adeel Razi presenting at the MARC 2019 Symposium

Dr Adeel Razi is a Senior Research Fellow, ARC DECRA Fellow and Director of the recently established Computational and Systems Neuroscience Laboratory at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health and Monash Biomedical Imaging. He is an Honorary Senior Research Associate at the Welcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging of University College London where he also worked from 2012 to 2018. He was also an Associate Professor in the Department of Electronic Engineering at the N.E.D. University of Engineering & Technology, Karachi, Pakistan. His research interests include; 1) development of multi-modal, multi-scale Bayesian framework, referred to as Dynamic Causal Modelling, to characterise brain network dynamics and how these dynamics reorganise with different brain pathologies; 2) use of classical psychedelics (e.g. LSD and Psilocybin) in combination with computational modelling to understand neural mechanisms underlying altered states of consciousness; and 3) development of neuroscience-inspired artificial intelligence schemes (e.g. active inference) to understand how parts of the brain (e.g. prefrontal cortex and cingulate cortex) perform decision-making.

Dr Rebecca Segrave is a Clinical Neuropsychologist and the David Winston Turner Senior Research Fellow at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health. She uses a combination of neuroscience, neuropsychology and brain stimulation techniques to investigate the causes of mental illness and develop new non-medication approaches to treatment. Dr Segrave has built a broad program of research investigating the efficacy of novel brain stimulation, cognitive training and lifestyle-based interventions for the treatment of major depression and compulsive disorders. She has a particular interest in why some people respond to a certain treatment and others don't, and how by identifying which characteristics are associated with the therapeutic response we can personalise treatment delivery.

Dr Segrave currently collaborates with MARC members on the following projects:

Efficacy of a 3-month aerobic exercise regime for restoring 'brain health' in heavy cannabis users

MARC Co-investigators: Prof Dan Lubman (Turning Point & MARC), Prof Murat Yucel (BrainPark)