A brand new approach to mental health

Some people may be more prone to conditions such as anxiety and depression. But how do we know who those people are?

Answering this question requires understanding how genes and environment impact our brains to ultimately influence behaviour.

Research at MICCN is tackling this important problem by finding ways to better understand the biological underpinnings of mental health; something that, until now, has not been fully explored.

Led by Professors Alex Fornito and Mark Bellgrove, the project team are looking to find the links between mental health, genetics and the human brain to enable earlier identification, earlier intervention and tailored treatments for those who may be at risk.

“We still have a limited understanding of how different mental symptoms cluster together, how they relate to personality traits, and how they arise from changes in brain function,” explains project coordinator and MICCN PhD candidate, Mr Jeggan Tiego. “We will be taking a multi-dimensional approach to better understand how mental health symptoms co-occur, and what underlies their co-occurrence, in terms of cognition, genetics and brain function.”

The project consists of six components that will assess functioning across cognitive, emotional, behavioural, neurobiological, and genetic levels. An online questionnaire will be used to measure symptom profiles, which will be followed by an assessment of cognitive functioning, an MRI to measure brain structure and function, a saliva sample for genetic analysis, daily experience sampling to measure daily fluctuation in stress and mood, and a clinical interview.

“This combination of assessments may assist us in understanding what predisposes some people to certain mental health conditions, so that they may be better diagnosed and treated”, Mr Tiego said. “With the help of people’s participation, this research offers a new approach to understanding mental health issues.”

For more information on this novel study is available on Facebook here, or you can email: MICCN-MBBP@monash.edu.

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