Impulsive, Compulsive & Addictive Behaviour
Our research is conducted with a number of national and international collaborators. The following lists some of the major studies currently underway.
The Adolescent Early Development Study
As part of this collaborative study (earlier discussed in the Adolescent Development of Brain and Behaviour stream), Dr Murat Yücel and collaborators will examine the way in which developmental processes predispose individuals towards impulsive, compulsive, and addictive behaviour, as well as psychopathology more generally. Children in this cohort will be assessed longitudinally as they grow through adolescence. This project is headed by A/Prof Nick Allen (ORYGEN) and involves multi-dimensional assessments of family dynamics, cognitive processes, and neuropsychological and neurobiological development. This work involves a range of measures including psychophysiology, neuropsychology and neuroimaging (156 MRI brain scans acquired at baseline) to assess different trajectories of brain maturation and their relationship to the emergence of symptoms as children grow.
The neuropsychology of risk-taking behaviour
Risk-taking behaviour increases dramatically during adolescence and is thought to increase vulnerability for the subsequent development of addictive disorders. We are currently examining reward and risk-processing in adolescents and young adults who engage in risk behaviours, as well as those who use drugs to better understand pathways into and out of drug addiction.
Anatomical, neurochemical and functional changes of the anterior cingulate and connected regions in psychiatric conditions
We have developed new methods for assessing the anatomical, biochemical and functional integrity of the anterior cingulate cortex and interconnected circuits critical for integrating cognitive and emotional processes. We have applied these to understand how this region is altered in patients with serious mental illness, particularly schizophrenia, OCD, major depression, addiction, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder.
The neuropsychology and neurobiology of substance abuse and addiction
Through Dr Dan Lubman and other members of ORYGEN we have recently completed detailed neuropsychological and multi-modal neuroimaging assessments of individuals addicted to opiates to gain a better understanding of how risk-taking and problems with behavioural inhibition lead to addictive states. More recently and in collaboration with Dr Dan Lubman, we have begun to conduct similar assessments in young people using inhalants. We are also currently examining the neurobiological correlates of the complex, yet often neglected relationships between substance use, cognition and psychiatric illness in cross-sectional and longitudinal cohorts.
The social brain in depression
Together with A/Prof Nick Allen we are using structural and functional neuroimaging techniques to examine the neurobiological correlates of maladaptive responses to socially threatening situations that are potentiated by depressed mood states. Studying people who are actively depressed, in addition to those who have a history of depression but are currently in remission, will allow us to disentangle transient state-related effects from more-enduring trait-related dispositions.
The neurobiology or moral dilemmas in adolescence, OCD and psychopathy
Dr Ben Harrison recently completed his PhD, which examined anterior cingulate function in schizophrenia from illness onset and is now undertaking a NH&MRC CJ Martin overseas training fellowship. His training and projects over the next few years will attempt to understand the neural and psychological processes underlying adolescent brain development, adolescent OCD and psychopathy. He is working with Prof Jesus Pujol in Barcelona and will be returning to complete his fellowship with MNC in 2008.
Training in the application of neuroimaging techniques to psychiatric disorders
This training typically involves joint supervision from many MNC staff members.