Addiction - Potential Student Projects

Title

Attitudes of ambulance paramedics to people with suicidal thoughts and behaviours, mental health problems, and substance use problems: A qualitative assessment of ambulance clinical care notes.

Background

Persons with suicidal thoughts or behaviours, those with mental health and/or alcohol and other drug (AOD) issues are highly stigmatised. People experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours, mental health and/or AOD problems are often perceived as ‘blameworthy’, ‘dangerous’, or ‘unpredictable’ when compared to people experiencing other health conditions. Despite potentially wanting or needing support, stigma is a barrier to seeking help for all of these conditions. Ambulance services are a key frontline emergency service used frequently by persons with suicidal thoughts or behaviours, those with mental health and/or alcohol and other drug (AOD) issues. Whilst paramedics’ attitudes can impact on how these consumers are treated, there has been little qualitative investigation to understand how ambulance paramedics view and respond to persons with suicidal thoughts or behaviours, mental health and/or alcohol and other drug (AOD) issues.

Principle Method(s)

This project would utilise our unique and ever-expanding data set of ambulance clinical care notes to qualitative analyse the language used by paramedics to describe patients with suicidal thoughts or behaviours, those with mental health and/or alcohol and other drug issues, as well responses provided.

Contact

Dr. Katrina Witt (Turning Point, Monash University)

katrina.witt@monash.edu

Dr. Michael Savic (Turning Point, Monash University)

michael.savic@monash.edu

Further Avenues

This project could lead on to a higher degree by research focused on developing and piloting a paramedic training package to improve the attitudes of paramedics towards these consumers.

Title

“There’s an app for that”: Appraising the quality of evidence of digital applications for the self-management of suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

Background

The Looking the Other Way: Young People and Self-Harm Report, commissioned by the Commonwealth Government Department of Health and Ageing, called for the development of digital interventions to to ensure young people experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours are treated in the least restrictive environment relative to their level of need. The number of digital applications (‘apps’) available for the self-management of suicidal thoughts and behaviours has increased in recent years as a result. However, a recent systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature found few of these apps have been evaluated. This project would seek to undertake an extensive review of the apps currently available on iOS and GooglePlay stores to evaluate the extent to which these apps implement principles of evidence-based best-practice care for suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and the extent to which these apps are rated as useful for consumers.

Principle Method(s)

Based on a methodology we have employed in studies of addiction recovery and sleep apps, this project could employ quantitative and qualitative content analysis approaches.

Contact

Dr. Katrina Witt (Turning Point, Monash University)

katrina.witt@monash.edu

Further Avenues

This project could lead on to a higher degree by research focused on developing and piloting a digital app for the self-management of suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

Title

Wellbeing and coping strategies of paramedics: a mixed-methods study

Background

Paramedics, like other first-responder professionals (e.g. police, fire-fighters etc.) play an important role in responding to health emergencies. In the course of caring for others paramedics are exposed to a range of potentially stressful, traumatic and sometimes dangerous situations. As a result of this, there can be high rates of stress, and burnout amongst paramedics, which may also impact on the quality of care paramedics provide. Ambulance services are increasingly view paramedic wellbeing as a high priority, with many considering how to best support paramedics to cope with the work stresses they often face. However, there has been relatively little research to help understand paramedic wellbeing and how paramedics cope with the work stress. This research has the potential to contribute in this regard.

Principle Method(s)

Drawing on data collected as part of national research project in ambulance services, this project could involve quantitative analysis of survey data, as well as qualitative analysis of interview data.

Contact

Dr Rowan Ogeil (Monash University and Turning Point) Rowan.ogeil@monash.edu (03) 8413 8469

Further Avenues

This project could lead on to a higher degree by research focused on further understanding first-responder wellbeing and developing and piloting resources to facilitate the wellbeing of paramedic, or other first-responder groups.

Title

“I’ve been contemplating suicide”: an analysis of disclosure of suicidal thoughts or self-harm  in face-to-face and online counselling sessions

Background

People who have suicidal thoughts or who engage in self-harm practices may also have a range of other concerns including in relation to alcohol and other drugs (AOD) or mental health. Despite an increasing focus on, and community concern about these issues, stigma often acts as a barrier to seeking help in face-to-face services for this population. However, increasingly people are turning to anonymous online counselling as a potentially safe and accessible avenue through which they can obtain support for a range of issues including alcohol and other drug (AOD) issues and mental health issues. However, it is not clear what the experiences of people are who disclose self-harm or suicidal thoughts in online AOD counselling sessions. It is also not clear how counsellors respond to disclosure of suicidal thoughts or self-harm.

Principle Method(s)

This unique exploratory study will employ qualitative methods to analyse transcripts of online counselling sessions from Turning Point’s ever-expanding database on online counselling transcripts.

Contact

Dr. Katrina Witt (Turning Point, Monash University)

katrina.witt@monash.edu

Dr. Michael Savic (Turning Point, Monash University)

michael.savic@monash.edu

Further Avenues

This project could lead on to a higher degree by research focused on further understanding and improving online counselling responses to self-harm and suicide.

Title

Online peer support for gambling and alcohol and other drug issues

Background

Face-to-face peer support for gambling and alcohol and other drug (AOD) issues are considered a useful resource to assist people in their recovery and treatment journeys. Peer support is thought to provide people with social support, a sense of community, belonging and opportunities to engage with positive role-models.
Peer-support is also increasingly expanding via the online medium. Despite this there has been relatively little research about people’s experiences of online per support and the possibilities and constraints that the online medium might contain.

Principle Method(s)

This unique and innovative study will employ qualitative methods to analyse text from online gambling and/or AOD peer support forums that Turning Point runs.

Contact

Dr. Michael Savic (Turning Point, Monash University)

michael.savic@monash.edu

Further Avenues

This project could lead on to a higher degree by research focused on further understanding and improving online peer support and/or online interventions.

Title

The role of sleep to acute medical crises involving ambulance attendance

Background

More than 1.2 million Australians experience sleep problems which have negative effects on people’s productivity and long-term mental and physical health. Sleep problems however, are also associated with acute crises being an independent risk factor for suicide over and above depression alone. Sleep problems are listed among the top warning signs for suicide, however the contribution of disturbed sleep to acute crises involving mental health, alcohol and drug or suicide-related ambulance call outs is unknown.

Principle Method(s)

This project would utilise Turning Point’s unique ambulance database and examine cases of sleep disturbance that co-occur with a mental health, alcohol or other drug, or suicide-related ambulance presentation. These outcomes will be used to: (1) understand the prevalence and types of sleep problems co-occurring with mental health, alcohol and drug and suicide outcomes; and (2) identify risk factors (e.g., socio-demographic factors, coexisting mental health disorders) associated with sleep problems in the context of an ambulance call out.

Contact

Dr Rowan Ogeil (Monash University and Turning Point)

Rowan.ogeil@monash.edu

(03) 8413 8469

Further Avenues

This project could lead on to a higher degree by research focused on developing and piloting a brief intervention tool to target sleep issues for ambulance officers and paramedics.

Title

Do changes in incentive salience to alcohol cues predict relapse following alcohol-withdrawal?

Background

One in five Australians meet lifetime criteria for alcohol use disorders1. For alcohol-dependent individuals treatment often commences with costly and intensive inpatient detoxification followed by several weeks or months of outpatient counselling. Unfortunately the majority of alcohol-dependent patients relapse, often within a few days of inpatient withdrawal. Cognitive biases (i.e., attentional bias and approach bias) cause an individual’s behaviour to becoming increasingly governed by alcohol-related cues in their environment. In their seminal paper, Robinson and Berridge (2008) propose the ‘incentive sensitisation’ theory of addiction, whereby incentive salience to reward-associated stimuli leads to a pathological incentive motivation (‘wanting’) for drugs. There is evidence to suggest that cognitive biases to alcohol-related cues are associated with craving, triggering the desire to consume alcohol and ultimately relapse. Reducing the motivational salience of alcohol-related cues may therefore help enhance treatment outcomes. Cognitive bias modification is a computerised training task which retrains the automatic approach tendency in response to images of alcoholic beverages to an automatic avoidance tendency, over multiple trials, delivered over multiple sessions. In a NHMRC-funded, multi-site RCT of cognitive bias modification during alcohol withdrawal, changes in incentive salience (“wanting” of alcohol) and craving are being examined. However it is not known whether changes in incentive salience in response to alcohol-cues predict treatment outcome.

Principle Method(s)

This project would examine changes in the “wanting” of alcohol based on visual analogue scale ratings in response to images of alcohol as a result of cognitive bias modification and would examine the extent to which reduced incentive salience (“wanting”) predicts relapse at 2-weeks and 3-months.

Contact

Dr Victoria Manning  (Turning Point, Monash University)

Victoria.Manning@monash.edu

Further Avenues

This project could lead on to a higher degree by examining the impact of cognitive bias modification on craving, incentive salience and treatment outcome (abstinence and related drinking measures) up to one-year after training.


More projects

Title Explanatory Statement Supervisor/sCourse
Therapeutic Virtual Reality: Implementing the next frontier of technology into clinical practice Rapid advances in virtual reality (VR) technologies have created the means to immerse people in safe, highly realistic, personally designed, therapeutic environments. In VR people can face their fears, overcome their anxieties, and re-train new response to their personal clinical triggers, all without ever leaving the clinicians office. Evidence for the efficacy of therapeutic VR in treatment of a range of mental illnesses is growing rapidly. A key challenge, however, will be the implementation of VR into clinical health care settings, as psychology and psychiatry have traditionally been slow to adopt new technologies into practice. This honours project will examine the barriers and potential facilitators of integration of VR into mental illness treatment services, with the ultimate aim of identifying effective pathways for implementation of therapeutic VR into psychological practice.

Dr Rebecca Segrave
Dr Tracy Robinson

Honours
Understanding Risk and Reward in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental illness characterised by recurrent distressing mental obsessions and behavioural compulsions. For decades OCD has been viewed as an archetypical compulsive disorder, i.e. compulsive rituals are performed in order to alleviate or avoid feelings of anxiety and stress. However, recent clinical research findings suggested that OCD may be better conceptualised as a ‘behavioural addiction’, i.e. compulsive rituals are impulsive in nature, and motivated by a desire for positive states. These two frameworks have very different treatment implications, and as the behavioural addiction model of OCD is a radical departure from the traditional anxious-avoidant model its validity is hotly debated within medical and psychological literature. This honours project will contribute to the debate by investigating the extent to which impulsivity and risky decision making are features of OCD. The student will learn to administer a battery of gold-standard measures of cognitive and behavioural impulsivity, compulsivity and risky decision making and administer these with people experiencing OCD and others with no experience of mental illness.

Dr Rebecca Segrave

Honours
Online peer support forums for alcohol and other drug issues ‎and/or gambling Face-to-face peer support for gambling and alcohol and other drug ‎‎(AOD) issues is considered a useful resource to assist people in ‎their recovery and treatment journeys. Peer support provides ‎social support, a sense of community, belonging and opportunities ‎to engage with positive role-models. Peer support is also ‎increasingly expanding online. However, little research has ‎explored people’s experiences of online peer support and the ‎possibilities and constraints of the online medium for this purpose. ‎This exploratory study will employ qualitative methods to analyse ‎text from online AOD and/or gambling peer support forums ‎operated by Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre.‎ Dr Ella Dilkes-Frayne, Dr Michael Savic, Dr Adrian Carter Honours, DPsych(Clinical), PhD
Online counselling for alcohol and other drug issues Despite community concern about alcohol and other drug (AOD) ‎issues, stigma often acts as a barrier to seeking help in face-to-face ‎services. Increasingly people who use AODs are turning to ‎anonymous online AOD counselling to obtain support. However, ‎little research has explored the concerns and experiences of ‎people using online AOD counselling, and how counsellors respond ‎to client concerns and provide support online. This exploratory ‎study will employ qualitative methods to analyse transcripts of ‎online counselling sessions from Turning Point’s CounsellingOnline ‎service. For DPsych and PhD students the project may also include ‎in-depth interviews with online counselling clients and counsellors.‎ Dr Ella Dilkes-Frayne, Dr Michael Savic, Dr Adrian Carter Honours, DPsych(Clinical), PhD
The neuroscience of lifestyle interventions for compulsive disorders (behavioural, lifestyle and technology-based interventions)  Current treatments for compulsive disorders (addictions and obsessive-compulsive disorder) are frequently ineffective and only available to a minority of affected individuals. As such, new effective and accessible therapies are greatly needed.  This project will investigate how behavioural, lifestyle and technology-based interventions affect brain functioning, cognitive processing and psychosocial functioning, and whether they effectively reduce compulsivity. The candidate will develop skills in neuroimaging, cognitive testing, clinical interviewing, exercise physiology, and conducting clinical trials. They will additionally develop a strong grounding in behavioural, lifestyle and technology-based interventions, neuroplasticity and the neuropsychology of compulsive disorders.

Prof Murat Yücel
Dr Rebecca Segrave

PhD
The potential of exercise to treat addictions and OCD

Physical exercise is known to modulate cognitive processing and   stimulate neuronal health and neuroplasticity through the release of   various neurotrophins. By bolstering the integrity of both grey and   white matter, exercise can promote overall brain health and mental health, which is not only important for enhancing cognitive capacities   but also for combating harm from a variety of sources. There is also   growing interest in emotional influences on cognition, their role in   psychopathology, how they can best be measured, and techniques that can   modulate them.

This PhD will focus on a subset of cognitive process (to be determined by the student), their neurophysiological underpinnings and role in compulsive behaviours (including addictions and obsessive-compulsive disorder), and whether they can be modulated by physical exercise. They will join a world-leading research group with expertise in addictions and OCD, development of novel cognitive testing tools, and running innovative clinical trials.

Prof Murat Yücel
Dr Rebecca Segrave

PhD
Using rTMS to Better Treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a devastating mental   illness that is notoriously difficult to treat. OCD is associated with   changes in brain activity specific neurocircuits. rTMS is a non-invasive   brain stimulation technique that can safely modulate brain activity in   targeted neurocircuits. rTMS can be a highly effective treatment for depression, but its potential to help people with OCD is less known.

This exciting clinically focused PhD will focus on novel applications   of rTMS to treat OCD. It will investigate the impact of rTMS on both   OCD symptom severity and underlying cognitive-motivational processes.   The candidate will join a world-leading research group with expertise in   neuroimaging, psychopathology, and brain stimulation, and have the   oppourtunity to develop skills in each of these areas.

Prof Murat Yücel
Dr Rebecca Segrave

PhD
Brain Training for Addictions

Brain training strategies (i.e. computerised cognitive training),   such as cognitive control training and attentional bias modification,   show promise as treatments for addictions. However, the training   strategies developed to date tend to have small effects, and more research is needed to discover which are the most promising training   methods, and how we can improve their design to deliver better outcomes   for people suffering from addictions.

This exciting clinically focused PhD will explore strategies that may   increase the efficacy of brain training for addictions, such as   gamification of training paradigms, enhancing the personal salience of   training stimuli, and combining cognitive training with neuroplasticity enhancing strategies like physical exercise or tDCS. The candidate will   join a world-leading research group with expertise in neuroimaging,   psychopathology, and brain training, and have the oppourtunity to   develop skills in each of these areas.

Prof Murat Yücel
Dr Rebecca Segrave
Dr Rico Lee
PhD
Using Virtual Reality To Treat Addictions and OCD

Therapeutic virtual reality (VR) has the potential to revolutionise   the way we treat mental illnesses. Through VR we can bring therapeutic   environments directly into the clinician's office, and patients can   engage in therapeutic work in realistic virtual scenarios that are   customised to their psychological needs.

This exciting PhD will develop and test therapeutic VR cue-exposure   environments that can be used to investigate the cognitive-motivational   drivers of compulsivity, and to treat compulsive conditions. The PhD   offers an opportunity to get involved in the conceptual design of   therapeutic VR environments, and the integration of real-time   psychophysiology biofeedback during immersion. There is also scope for   the inclusion of neuroimaging outcome measures.

Prof Murat Yücel
Dr Rebecca Segrave
Dr Rico Lee

PhD
App-based technologies to personalise treatments for addictions and OCD

The growing enthusiasm for scalable e-health tools, together with the   accessibility of app-based technologies (e.g., smartphones, tablets),   have provided a unique opportunity for the development of a next   generation of assessment tools for addiction and mental health conditions. To this end, the currently underway Monash and Cogstate   (‘MonCog') Project aims to develop a one-of-a-kind electronic battery   with industry partners that is informed by neuroscience, engaging, and   clinically useful for the assessment and monitoring of individuals   across the spectrum of compulsive disorders.

This PhD will involve a number of exciting studies, including i) the   development and optimisation of cognitive-affective app-based tools; ii)   the phenotyping of these constructs (e.g., impulsivity, compulsivity,   expectancy, reward learning) to statistically model how they causally   contribute to compulsive behaviours, and iii) the prototyping of the   MonCog app as a predictor of treatment response across our suite of   next-generation therapeutics (e.g., exercise, mindfulness meditation) to   move towards a more personalised medicine. The successful candidate   will have the opportunity to gain experience in working with industry,   to develop advanced statistical know-how (e.g., structural equation   modelling), and to be at the forefront of translating basic and clinical   research into the clinic.

Prof Murat Yücel
Dr Rico Lee

PhD
Goal Management Training for Methamphetamine Use Disorders Methamphetamine use disorder (MUD) is a major health problem for Australia. Currently, there are no approved pharmacotherapies for MUD, and behavioural interventions are often ineffective. Therefore, there is an unmet need for novel treatment approaches. Goal Management Training (GMT) is a cognitive remediation intervention that has shown to improve executive functions in populations with polysubstance use. This project aims to examine the efficacy of GMT to improve executive functions, and ultimately to reduce drug relapse rates among patients with MUD.   A/Prof Antonio    Verdejo-GarciaPhD
PhD(Clin Psych)
PhD(ClinNeuro)
The crosstalk between gut feedback and decision-making systems in obesity Obesity is increasingly viewed as a disorder of decision-making as obese patients know that healthier eating is the optimal option but they are unable to make the choices necessary to maintain a healthy diet and weight. Understanding the cognitive processes and the brain networks that integrate gut feedback with higher order cognitive processes involved in food choices is key to foster development of novel treatments for obesity. This project aims to use cognitive assessment tools and body and brain imaging techniques to map the crosstalk between gut feedback and decision-making systems relevant to food choice in obesity. A/Prof Antonio Verdejo-GarciaPhD
Honours
Effort-based decision-making and treatment motivation in methamphetamine users This project has two aims: (1) to compare effort-based decision-making (willingness to expend effort to obtain related rewards), measured with objective tasks, in individuals with methamphetamine use disorders versus non-drug using controls; (2) to examine if effort-based decision-making performance is associated with clinical measures, such as motivation for treatment, apathy and depression, among methamphetamine users.   A/Prof Antonio Verdejo-Garcia
Dr Trevor Chong
Honours
Motivation and reward in obesity Obesity is a common condition which is thought to involve altered brain responses to reward. This project will investigate the willingness of obese individuals to exert effort for food or other rewards, and compare their decisions to those of lean individuals. It is anticipated that this project will form the basis for future functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies to determine how decision-making pathways in obese individuals are modulated by reward. A/Prof Antonio Verdejo-Garcia
Dr Trevor Chong
Honours
Pharmacology of impulsivity Impulsivity is an important but complex construct in psychopathology and neuroscience. This project will develop a battery of tasks to deconstruct impulsivity into its essential cognitive elements and link these to distinct neuropharmacological systems. Healthy subjects will perform a range of impulsivity tasks under different drug conditions, such as those designed to agonise or antagonise the dopamine D2 receptor. A/Prof Antonio Verdejo-Garcia
Prof Mark Bellgrove
PhD
PhD(ClinNeuro)
Honours
The neurobiology of overeating: ethical, clinical and policy implications of “food addiction” in Australia. Obesity is one of the largest causes of preventable disease burden. Scientists believe that treating obesity as a “food addiction” will improve treatments and policies for obesity and reduce stigma. However, promoting obesity as a “food addiction” could impair obese individuals’ ability to control their weight or seek treatment. It may focus attention on medical solutions at the expense of more effective social polices for reducing weight and improving health. This project will examine the ethical, clinical and policy issues raised by “food addiction” models of overeating and the impact of neurobiological views on obese individuals using social science methods. Dr    Adrian CarterPhD
PhD(Clin Psych)
PhD(ClinNeuro)
Honours
The impact of deep brain stimulation on agency, personality and identity Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has treated over 100,000 individuals with various movement disorders, and is being trialled in several psychiatric disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and addiction. While DBS has successfully treated motor symptoms, its effect on quality of life is controversial. DBS can increase carer burden and relationship breakdown, impulsivity, mania and reduce empathy. Little is know about the impact of DBS on personality, selfhood and agency. Some report changes in desires or feeling estranged from their true self. This study uses qualitative methods to elucidate the impact of DBS on these important markers of quality of life. Dr    Adrian Carter 
Meeting the ethical, economic and regulatory challenges raised by mHealth With 6 billion phone subscriptions reaching 87% of the world’s population, smartphones will transform our ability obtain clinical data from users and provide personalised healthcare. The use of smartphones for these purposes is referred to as mHealth. However, mHealth technologies raise unprecedented ethical (e.g. privacy, surveillance) and regulatory issues (e.g. they are currently unregulated) that need to be addressed. This project will examine the technological, ethical, governance and economic challenges raised by mHealth, including a qualitative and quantitative study of consumers’ views on the use of mHealth in exercise and nutrition. Dr Adrian    Carter
Anne-Marie Farrell
PhD
Honours
Stigma and discrimination in mental health: measuring the impact of different causal explanations of mental illness. Proponents argue that neurobiological explanations of mental illness and addiction – a “disease like any other” – will reduce stigma and discrimination. Recent research suggests that acceptance of brain-disease explanations may actually increase stigma. This project will explore the impact of two different approaches for reducing stigma in mental illness: 1) brain-based causal explanations that tap into people’s cognitive understanding of addiction vs. 2) emotional-based approaches that seek to reduce the distance between mentally-ill individuals and the general public. The project employs social science methods mental illness stigma and assess the impact of different ways of reducing stigma. Dr Adrian Carter
Rebecca Segrave
PhD
Honours
Are all Stressors Equal? A large body of research demonstrates the negative impact of stress on health including on health behaviours (e.g., sleep), psychological health (e.g., depression, anxiety),  and physical health (e.g., inflammatory processes, mortality).  However, we know relatively little about whether all stressors are equal or whether particular types of stress are more relevant for particular aspects of health.  This study aims to compare and contrast different types of stressors with respect to health.  Results from the study will inform: (1) tailoring coping and stress management interventions to particularly critical types of stress and (2) targeting interventions to high risk individuals.

This study has room for several PhD or honours level projects.  It is expected that students will pick one health outcome to focus on (e.g., sleep, immune, cardio-metabolic, cognitive function).  Student projects will consist of two components.  First, leveraging existing epidemiologic data to examine the relations of stress and their focal health outcome.  Second, a new data collection to replicate and extend the evidence from epidemiologic data.
Dr    Bei Bei
Dr Joshua Wiley
PhD
Honours
Sleep during withdrawal and recovery from addiction Sleep is a major concern in those undergoing withdrawal from drugs of dependence, and it continues to be a problem throughout recovery. This project will examine how sleep changes during these phases using a variety of objective and subjective measures of sleep. Through understanding how different components of sleep are disturbed, relevant interventions can be delivered for delivery within the detox setting. Prof    Dan Lubman
Dr Rowan Ogeil
PhD
PhD(Clin Psych)
Honours
A low-cost intervention to improve sleep hygiene in drug users Continued problems with sleep following completion of detox is associated with a greater chance of relapse in drug users. This project aims to trial a low-cost, brief intervention that targets sleep hygiene behaviours in order to improve sleep in a cohort of treatment seekers. Prof Dan Lubman
Dr Rowan Ogeil
PhD(Clin Psych)
Honours
Stigma and social distancing project The journey to recovery from substance dependence and mental health demands significant personal transformation but also recognition and acceptance of this change by the wider community. Stigma can pose significant threats to effective rehabilitation and reintegration. It is therefore imperative that mental health and AOD health workers embrace and instill optimism for recovery. The study assesses perceptions of potential for change with various stigmatised groups among Eastern Health healthcare practitioners using vignettes to measure social distancing - i.e. willingness to engage with both active and desisting substance users/ mental health/offenders in a range of different contexts. Prof Dan Lubman
Dr Victoria Manning
PhD(Clin Psych)
Honours
Clinician health literacy – understanding alcohol and its harms Alcohol-related harm significantly impacts upon population health, with 3.9% of the global burden of disease estimated to be attributable to alcohol. Alcohol consumption is linked to more than 60 diseases and so is it essential that healthcare professionals working in settings likely to treat high-risk drinkers (e.g. gastroenterology, dementia, cardiovascular clinics etc.) have good health literacy in relation to alcohol. The project surveys knowledge and attitudes around alcohol use, recommended consumption guidelines, screening and identification of problem drinking and associated harms with a range of health care professionals in Eastern Health and their patients. It also explores whether health care professionals are comfortable discussing alcohol use with their patients and it is anticipated that the findings will inform the development of a training resource for healthcare professionals. Prof Dan Lubman
Dr Victoria Manning
PhD(Clin Psych)
Honours
Understanding alcohol-related harm in older adults There is evidence from data on drug-related harm that risky drinking in older people is increasing. However the paucity of knowledge about alcohol-related harms this population is a barrier to the development of appropriate harm prevention strategies. The study uses both quantitative and qualitative data to examine the nature and types of alcohol-related harms and concerns experienced by people aged over 55. This includes examination of trends and differences in acute alcohol-related harms across time and particular sub groups based on ambulance data and an examination of the concerns and consequences of risky drinking expressed on counselling online sessions. Prof Dan Lubman
Michael Slavic
Honours
Computational Neuroscience & Addiction Impulsivity and compulsivity are important behavioral traits that underlie many decisions we make and also form the characteristic symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Problem Gambling. Biologically, there is converging evidence that fronto-striatal brain circuits underpin both impulsivity and compulsivity. Therefore, apparently different disorders may arise from dysfunction of the same fronto-striatal brain circuits and decision-making processes. However, there is currently very little research testing this notion. The broad goal of this PhD project is to use neuroeconomic principles to model the behavioral/cognitive characteristics and understand the neural factors that mediate the expression of impulsivity and compulsivity across these clinical populations. Prof    Murat YücelPhD
The role of abstinence and exercise in restoring hippocampal integrity in cannabis users For over a decade, we have documented the neurobiological harms associated with regular cannabis use, especially harms in the hippocampal region of the brain. What is unclear is whether these hippocampal alterations are permanent, or can be restored following cessation or substantive reduction of use. Aerobic exercise for example stimulates neurogenesis in the hippocampus, which has been linked to improved psychological and clinical outcomes. This study will, for the first time, investigate whether hippocampal integrity can be restored in cannabis users either via cessation or reduction of cannabis use, regular physical exercise, or a combination of both. Prof Murat YücelPhD
PhD(Clin Psych)
PhD(ClinNeuro)
Honours
Why do we get addicted? a community and twin study of impulsive and compulsive behaviours Impulsivity and compulsivity are core features of a range of adaptive and maladaptive behaviors. Despite this, little research has systematically characterised similarities and differences between these behavioural styles in normative samples. We have developed an online neuroscientific testing battery examining impulsivity and compulsivity across 9 behaviors (i.e., gambling, binge eating, shopping, alcohol, internet use, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms). 500 participants will be recruited via an online crowdsourcing environment and 400 twins, which permits the unique opportunity to estimate the heritability and influence of shared and non-shared environmental factors on the prevalence of impulsive and compulsive behaviours/traits in the general community. Prof Murat YücelPhD
PhD(ClinNeuro)
Drug-induced impulse control disorders: clinical, ethical and legal implications Dopamine replacement therapy, a treatment of Parkinson's disease, can induce severe impulse control disorders (e.g. pathological gambling, hypersexuality, compulsive shopping). This project aims to understand these patients' experience of drug-induced impulse control disorders, their perception of their ability to control their behaviour and the role that the medication plays in their behaviour, and the extent to which they identify with their actions or attribute them to their medication. The project will involve a range of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, neurocognitive testing, critical reviews of the neuroscientific literature, and ethical and philosophical analyses (e.g. autonomy, personal responsibility, and authenticity). Prof Murat Yücel
Dr Adrian Carter
PhD
PhD(Clin Psych)
PhD(ClinNeuro)
Honours
Online peer support forums for alcohol and other drug issues and/or gambling  Face-to-face peer support for gambling and alcohol and other drug (AOD) issues are considered a useful resource to assist people in their recovery and treatment journeys. Peer support is thought to provide people with social support, a sense of community, belonging and opportunities to engage with positive role-models. Peer-support is also increasingly expanding via the online medium. Despite this there has been relatively little research about people's experiences of online peer support and the possibilities and constraints that the online medium might contain. This exploratory study will employ qualitative methods to analyse text from online AOD and/or gambling peer support forums that are operated by Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre. Dr Ella Dilkes-Frayne
Dr Michael Savic
Dr Adrian Carter
PhD
PhD(Clin Psych)
Honours
Online counselling for alcohol and other drug issues  Despite an increasing focus on, and community concern about alcohol and other drug (AOD) issues, stigma often acts as a barrier to seeking help in face-to-face services. Increasingly people who use AODs and their family members are turning to anonymous online AOD counselling as a potentially safe and accessible avenue through which they can obtain support. However, the needs, concerns and experiences of people who use online AOD counselling remain unclear. How counsellors respond to these concerns and provide support in an online medium has also received little research attention. This exploratory study will employ qualitative methods to analyse transcripts of online counselling sessions from Turning Point's CounsellingOnline service. For DPsych(Clinical) and PhD students, the project may also include in-depth interviews with online counselling clients and counsellors. Dr Michael Savic
Dr Ella Dilkes-Frayne
Dr Adrian Carter
PhD
PhD(Clin Psych)
Honours

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