Research

Clinical psychology and clinical neuropsychology

Improving quality of life for those impacted by brain and mental disorders

Quality of life can be impacted negatively and positively through factors that exist within the individual and society.

Our clinical psychology and clinical neuropsychology researchers are exploring theories and interventions to improve quality of life by understanding the causes and consequences of brain and mental disorders.

We focus on assessment, treatment and rehabilitation across the lifespan, societies and cultures. Our MPsych and PhD programs are a key way to engage with research in these areas and many of our graduates continue our research engagement with hospitals and health services across the nation.

Research laboratories

Clinical psychology and clinical neuropsychology researchers work across the following laboratories:

Clinical Psychology

Clinical Psychology

Clinical Psychology aims to understand and change abnormal behaviour, cognitions and emotions through the application of principles and techniques developed in the understanding of normal behaviour, cognition and emotions.

Our laboratory group aims to apply our understanding of normal psychology to extend our knowledge of the nature and modification of psychological problems. We apply patient monitoring to mental health settings with a view to improving outcomes.

Using electronic systems of data entry and management, it is possible to develop patient feedback systems that provide real-time information on progress. We are also working on developing ways to enhance treatments when progress is not optimal.

By tracking change from day to day and also examining the ways that increase temporal precision of measurement, we are seeking to investigate whether we can assist in the prediction and prevention of suicide and self-harm.

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Cognition and Emotion
Mother and child

Clinical theorists have attributed emotional disorders to cognitive idiosyncrasies, while cognitive theorists have developed models which suggest emotional states will be associated with pervasive information processing biases throughout the cognitive system.

Both clinical and cognitive models of emotional disorders predict the existence of processing biases favouring emotionally congruent information in attention, comprehension and memory.

Current research uses cognitive-experimental paradigms to test hypotheses arising from these models, and focuses on several related questions including:

  • To what extent are such biases automatic?
  • What is the relative involvement of state and trait variables?
  • Do information processing biases mediate emotional reaction to valenced stimuli?
  • Is susceptibility to mood congruent information processing biases a vulnerability factor for emotional disorders?

Research in the Cognition and Emotion Lab is currently undertaken through the Elizabeth Rutherford Memorial Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion (CARE).

CARE website

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Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Reserve Laboratory

Our group studies the normal and pathological processes involved in cognitive ageing, as well as the mechanisms that promote healthy cognition in late life. In particular, our research focuses on better understanding the theories of cognitive reserve and brain maintenance in cognitively healthy and neurodegenerative disease populations.

Cognitive reserve reflects an individual's cognitive resilience to brain changes that happen with ageing, and brain maintenance refers to one's ability to remain free from brain pathology like Alzheimer's disease. Our work focuses on the use of latent variable modeling of longitudinal data to integrate neuropsychological test results with neuroimaging and other biomarkers of brain health.

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Directors:

 

Emotion Regulation Laboratory

Difficulties in emotion regulation (ER) are central to the development and maintenance of psychopathology. The current empirical evidence shows that ER difficulties are implicated not only in most psychological difficulties, including diagnosable disorders like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc., but also in relationship difficulties, alcohol abuse, gambling, aggression, and so on.

With this in mind, research is currently investing considerable efforts in understanding the mechanisms involved in ER as well as developing interventions that aim at improving ER strategies.

yellow balls with various emotions

Our laboratory group aims to:

  • Develop a valid and comprehensive assessment of emotion regulation, considering subjective, behavioural, and psychophysiological perspectives. Together with Dr David Preece, we have developed a series of self-report scales (The Perth series) which have been validated in community and student samples, and we are currently validating the scales in clinical samples.
  • Develop an ER intervention that considers emotion-related phenomena, suspected to impact regulatory skills, i.e., emotional reactivity, alexithymia, and beliefs about emotions (see the Research Gate link to have full access to the scales and the relevant articles). We are currently running an ER clinic at the Robin Winkler Clinic of the University of Western Australia, as well as a local psychiatric hospital and a female prison in Perth, WA. This intervention incorporates current strategies proven to be helpful (e.g., psychoeducation, mindfulness, CBT components, etc.) in addition to specific techniques targeting maladaptive beliefs about emotions, improving alexithymic features, and strategies targeting emotional reactivity. 
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  • PhD students: Neil Berry and Jackie Davis

  • Honours students: Jasmine Hancock and Courtney Stewart

 

Lifespan Development Laboratory

Seniors socialisingThe Lifespan Development Group and the West Australian Participant Pool is the home of volunteers and researchers interested in the path of emotional and mental ageing.

The Lifespan Lab conducts research into typical and abnormal ageing. Typical ageing research is conducted within the Healthy Ageing Research Project and in collaboration with the Busselton Health Study.

Abnormal ageing research (e.g. Parkinson’s, sleep apnoea and Alzheimer’s) is conducted in collaboration with the Sleep Clinic at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, with the Parkinson’s Centre (ParkC) at Curtin, and with the McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Centre.

Healthy Ageing Research Project (HARP)

Project HARP is the umbrella name for a series of programmatic research projects focused on typical ageing. HARP is directed by Romola Bucks, Michael Weinborn and Brandon Gavett. Projects have included evaluating predictors of independent functioning in healthy ageing individuals, and exploring the cognitive and neurological burden of sleep disturbance. All projects involve assessment of cognitive and emotional functioning, as well as functional outcomes.

Our research is supported by the kind contribution of volunteers from the West Australian Participant Pool (WAPP), directed by Romola Bucks. WAPP volunteers are community adults, over 50 years of age, who agree to be contacted regarding participation in one or more of the Lifespan Lab's research studies.

To learn more about becoming a volunteer for this research project, read the information sheet:

West Australian Participant Pool (WAPP)

The West Australian Participant Pool (WAPP) is the home of volunteers aged 50 and over who help researchers understand emotional and mental changes in ageing.

We are interested in studying normal ageing for several reasons. We believe if we understand the ageing process better, we may be able to assist older adults in living independently for longer, as well as lead to a general understanding of the human mind.

We look at responses to emotions and emotional situations as we age and how memory changes with age. Since some research suggests not all mental functions decline with age, we are interested in finding ones which might not decline, decline less or improve with age. We also believe a greater understanding of normal, healthy ageing will help in the early diagnosis of diseases such as Alzheimer's.

The research we conduct aims to increase our knowledge of the mind, but most importantly it aims to determine how getting older affects people in their day-to-day lives and how we can maintain independent functioning in older adults in practical ways.

To learn more about joining our pool of volunteers and helping us understand healthy ageing, read the information sheet.

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Parent and Child Laboratory

As children develop, they face a range of social, emotional, and behavioural challenges.

Mental health professionals have developed a range of interventions to address the varying needs of children, and decades of research attest to their value in improving child wellbeing. However, simply having programs available does not mean that parents and children will access and engage with them.

Only about a third of families initially engage in interventions, and of these, about half drop out. There is a range of reasons why parents do – and do not – seek and engage in help for their child, and knowing these will enable us to better plan accessible interventions in the future.

In the Parent and Child Lab, we are interested in researching questions that relate to these aspects of child development, parenting and interventions, such as:

  • Understanding the range of mental health and social challenges that children can experience, and how they come to develop these challenges.
  • Understanding how children get to therapy, and the barriers families face in doing so.
  • Parents’ perspectives and experiences in how they support their children.
  • Stigma that parents and children with mental health problems face, and how they cope with this stigma.

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Sensory Neuroscience Attention and Perception (SNAP) Laboratory

Seniors socialisingResearch interests within the SNAP Lab involves three distinct arms – visual perception, clinical research and sensory neuroscience. Current projects in each of these areas are described below.

Enquiries about any SNAP Lab projects below should be directed to head of SNAP lab Dr Jason Bell.

Perception research

Research in this area considers how the human visual system processes shapes and objects for recognition. Recognition is accomplished through the coordinated activation of distinct brain regions. Projects seek to discover what information is represented at each stage of processing.

Current research interests include:

  • Studying the role of hemispheric specialisation in the processing of symmetry.
  • The time course of visual perception. How fast and for how long do discrete visual mechanisms process content?
  • The properties of the mechanisms processing visual number.
  • Serial dependencies in visual perception. How and when is past information used in the processing of the present?

Clinical research

Dr. Jason Bell is interested in studying abnormalities of perception within particular groups. Together with associate professors Elizabeth Rieger (ANU) and Dr Susan Byrne (UWA), they are undertaking research to understand the relationship between biases in perception and or attention, and eating disorder symptomology, or obesity.

Current research interests include:

  • Attentional biases to high and low calorie foods or to particular body shapes.
  • Biases in the perceived healthiness of foods, or in the perceived size of female bodies.
  • Attentional retraining procedures to reduce or null maladaptive processing strategies in relation to the above visual cues.

Together with Associate Professor Carmela Pestell (UWA), they are conducting studies to better our understanding of the relationship between ADHD and altered time perception.

Current research interests include:

  • studies retraining timing abilities
  • studies examining the role of emotional regulation in ADHD symptomology and time perception

Sensory neuroscience

Understanding functional specialisation in the brain is a fundamental goal of neuroscience and psychology. The lab currently offers opportunities to study the effects of neurosynchronisation and of non-invasive cortical stimulation on perception and behaviour.

Current research projects and collaborations are utilising:

  • Neuroscience techniques such as transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS to investigate the correlates of attention and perception.
  • Neurosynchronisation techniques to understand the role of rhythmic brain activity in various aspects of attention, perception and action, with a focus on theta and alpha bands.
Translational Research in Mental Health Laboratory

Seniors socialisingTranslational research refers to activities which ensure that new research findings and interventions actually reach the people for whom they are intended. It also means working with clinicians and health services to facilitate the communication and implementation of research findings into everyday clinical practice. Through collaborative engagement efforts, we can ensure that people with mental health issues are provided with the best support available.

Currently, the main focus of our research is as follows:

  • sleep in the context of severe mental illness
  • hallucinations, voices, visions and related experiences
  • youth mental health

Sleep in the context of severe mental illness

Lab director Professor Flavie Waters manages the ‘Sleep Well Feel Well’ mental health sleep clinic in North Metro Health Service Mental Health, where sleep interventions and assessment methodologies are trialled with people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and personality disorder. A collaboration with Dr Melissa Ree (UWA, Marian Center) and PhD student Ms Chiu has produced an evidence-based CBT-Insomnia for Psychosis manual.

Professor Murray Maybery (UWA) and Professor Andrew Whitehouse (UWA, Telethon Institute) are investigating sleep in autism and are also trialling new methods for supporting people with mental illness and sleep apnoea who cannot use continuous positive airway pressure devices.

Hallucinations, voices, visions and related experiences

The International Consortium on Hallucination Research is a collaborative platform that aims to energise research on this topic, support collaborative efforts and develop new treatment for distressing experiences. Professor Murray Maybery is looking to better understand visual hallucinations in the general community and is also working together with Professor Peter McEvoy (Curtin University) to explore app-based interventions for distressing voices and other perceptual experiences in young people with mental health issues aged 16-24.

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People

  • Badcock, David

    Winthrop Professor David Badcock is an expert in behavioural and cognitive neuroscience, focusing on visual processing and perception.

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  • Benjanuvatra, Nat

    Dr Nat Benjanuvatra is a researcher and lecturer in UWA’s School of Human Sciences working with elite athletes and coaches to optimise performance.

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  • Blache, Dominique

    Dr Blache takes an integrative approach to animal welfare using his expertise in neuroscience and endocrinology to study stress, metabolism, and reproduction.

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  • Bond, Charlie

    Professor Charlie Bond is a dedicated structural biologist driving research with far-reaching applications

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  • Bucks, Romola

    Professor Romola Bucks is an award winning researcher whose research investigates cognitive disorders related to the process of ageing.

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  • Callow, Nik

    Associate Professor Nik Callow is a geographer, working across the areas of hydrology, geomorphology, Geographical Information Science (GIS) and remote sensing.

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  • Clemons, Tristan

    Dr Tristan Clemons and his team use nanoparticles to revolutionise how we treat injuries and diseases, such as burns and cancer, by improving drug delivery and avoiding negative side effects.

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  • Dunlop, Sarah

    Professor Sarah Dunlop is a highly regarded researcher leading an integrated team in basic and clinical research to promote recovery after neurotrauma.

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  • Eun-Jung Holden

    Professor Holden’s multi-disciplinary research spans the boundaries of computational science and geoscience, and links academia with industry.

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  • Fogarty, James

    Associate Professor James Fogarty’s research focuses on helping the water industry make better decisions by working on approaches that allow the environmental and amenity benefits of urban water projects to be incorporated into project evaluations.

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  • Fox, Archa

    Dr Archa Fox is a senior lecturer and leading researcher in the School of Molecular Sciences whose research has uncovered a new cellular structure, paraspeckles.

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  • George, Annette

    Professor Annette George is Head of the School of Earth Sciences and researcher in petroleum geoscience and early Earth environments.

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  • Green, Daniel

    Winthrop Professor Daniel Green is a cardiovascular exercise physiologist in the School of Human Sciences studying ways to prevent chronic disease.

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  • Grueter, Cyril

    Dr Cyril Grueter is a senior lecturer and researcher in biological anthropology, studying the social organisation of primates as a basis for understanding human behaviour.

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    Dr Sharyn Hickey’s research interests focus on geographical elements of environmental systems, and how spatial and temporal models can examine environmental change and the drivers of change.

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  • Hobbs, Richard

    Professor Richard J Hobbs FAA, is a Professor of Ecology and IAS Distinguished Fellow, former ARC Australian Laureate Fellow, and Head of the ERIE Research Group at The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.

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  • Lister, Ryan

    Professor Ryan Lister is an award winning scientist at UWA whose research focuses on the information contained in the DNA of plant and animal genomes.

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  • Loft, Shayne

    Professor Shayne Loft is the Director of the Human Factors and Applied Cognitive Psychology Laboratory and Deputy Head of The University of Western Australia’s School of Psychological Science.

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  • MacLeod, Colin

    School of Psychological Science Professor Colin MacLeod is an ARC Laureate Fellow, and Director of the Rutherford Memorial Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion.

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    Professor Shane Maloney's research focuses on the thermal physiology of humans and animals.

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  • Mugera, Amin

    Research to help feed the world's growing population and improve its standards of living.

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  • Murphy, Daniel

    Professor Daniel Murphy's research focuses on improving soil and its impact on sustainable agriculture in Australia and worldwide.

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  • Naylor, Louise

    Dr Louise Naylor is a senior lecturer and researcher in exercise physiology whose research investigates exercise as medicine to treat disease.

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  • Pannell, David

    David Pannell is Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Western Australia.

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  • Pate, John

    Professor John Pate is a distinguished biologist and plant physiologist with a career spanning decades of scientific research and discovery.

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  • Pestell, Carmela

    Associate Professor Carmela Pestell is a clinician, researcher and lecturer in clinical psychology and neuropsychology, and Director of the Robin Winkler Clinic

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  • Pillow, Jane

    Professor Jane Pillow is a clinical scientist and neonatologist whose work focuses on improving outcomes for premature infants.

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  • Powles, Stephen

    Professor Stephen Powles is one of the world’s most highly cited agricultural scientists and is widely regarded as an expert in herbicide resistance in plants.

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  • Professor Gary Kendrick

    Gary Kendrick is a research and teaching Professor at The Oceans Institute and Head of Biological Sciences, the University of Western Australia. Gary Kendrick’s long-term research goal is to develop a predictive framework for understanding the spatial and temporal dynamics between marine species distributions, their biology and the physical environment.

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  • Simon Farrell

    Professor Simon Farrell is Head of the School of Psychological Science, his ongoing research examines how people pursue goals and how we make decisions in social contexts

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Collaboration

Telethon Kids Institute

Staff at UWA Psychological Science collaborate extensively with the Telethon Kids Institute in research on:

  • biological and neuropsychological factors implicated in the development of disorders such as autism, ADHD, FASD and language disorders;
  • early identification and intervention for these disorders;
  • psychological and social outcomes for children with developmental disorders and their families, and;
  • the experiences of diverse youth and how this impacts on their development.

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Telethon Kids Institute

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