Health Sciences

Current projects

Cognition and Emotion Research lab

Current Research Projects

Innovations in Psychological Assessment and Intervention: Cognition and Emotion

This is the Centre's major research program, with five years of research funding. This program consists of 16 research projects. The 16 research projects focus on ageing and clinical populations. All projects have methodological foundations of rigorous experimental psychology involving controlled experiments, with a strong emphasis on neuropsychology in both Cognitive and emotion themes.
Funding: Australian Catholic University Research Funding - AUD$1.2million
Duration: 2014-2018
Investigators: Professor Peter Rendell, Dr Skye McLennan, Associate Professor Gill Terrett, Dr Megan Willis, Dr Izelle Labuschagne, Dr Nathan Rose,Professor Matthias Kliegel, Associate Professor Julie Henry (UQ), Professor Val Curran (University College London), Professor Ted Ruffman (University of Otago, NZ)

Cardiovascular health and wellbeing

This is a major five year program of research within the Centre for the Heart and Mind that examines the key psychosocial, cognitive and self-care factors that affect the health and wellbeing of patients with heart failure and their partners.
Funding: Australian Catholic University, Collaborative Research Network Program Research Funding - AUD$2.9million
Duration: 2014-2018
Investigators: Professor David Thompson, Associate Professor Chantal Ski, Dr Jan Cameron, Professor Peter Rendell, Dr Christina Kure, Professor David Prior

Ageing with the future in mind

In partnership with Villa Maria Catholic Homes this project investigates whether it is possible to enhance Prospective Memory function in older adults. Prospective memory refers to memory for future intentions and is used in many daily activities that are critical for the maintenance of independence in late-adulthood, such as remembering to take medication.
Funding: ARC Linkage Project - AUD$360,900 (Total Project with Catholic Homes contribution) $242,000 (ARC funding)
Duration: 2015-2017
Investigators: Professor Peter Rendell, Professor Colleen Doyle, Associate Professor Julie Henry (UQ), Professor Matthias Kliegel(University of Geneva and ACU), Dr Nathan Rose.

Episodic foresight and ageing

The aim for this study is to advance conceptual understanding of how fundamental human ability is affected as we grow older. This study investigates whether episodic foresight declines in late adulthood.
Funding: ARC Discovery Project - AUD$248,000
Duration: 2014-2016
Investigators: Associate Professor Julie Henry (UQ), Professor Thomas Suddendorf (UQ), Professor Peter Rendell, Professor Michael Corballis (The University of Auckland)

Ageing, trust, and financial exploitation: social, emotional and cognitive mechanisms

The fastest growing form of abuse among older Australians is financial abuse, and this most frequently involves exploitation via a relationship of trust. The aim of the proposed research is to test whether age related difficulty interpreting social and emotional information is implicated in this exploitation.
Funding: ARC Discovery Project - AUD$420,000
Duration: 2013-2015
Investigators: Dr Phoebe Bailey (UWS), Professor Peter Rendell, Professor Ted Ruffman (University of Otago, NZ), Dr Gillian Slessor (University of Aberdeen)

Prospective memory training to improve heart failure self-care: A feasibility study

Cognitive impairments affect the language, attention, working memory, psychomotor speed and/or executive function of approximately 75 per cent of people with heart failure. Many of these cognitive functions are needed for prospective memory (PM), a key skill that refers to forming and carrying out future intentions. This skill is critically linked to functional independence in the general population. Studies examining the association between cognitive impairments and heart failure outcomes have neglected to investigate whether this group of patients is vulnerable to PM failures. This project aims to examine whether PM is impaired among heart failure patients and evaluate the feasibility of two cognitive training interventions that have been pilot-tested in general ageing populations.
Funding: Australian Heart Foundation Vanguard Grant - AUD$75,000
Duration: 2014-2015
Investigators: Dr Jan Cameron, Professor Peter Rendell, Professor David Thompson, Professor David Prior.

The development of facial expression processing

The aim of this project is to examine how facial expression processing develops throughout childhood, adolescence and onto adulthood.
Behavioural and physiological techniques will be used to elucidate the developmental trajectory of the core perceptual, cognitive and physiological processes that underpin facial expression recognition. This project will also delineate how the capacity to use facial expressions to guide our social decisions develops. The findings will contribute to our understanding of how these important social-cognitive skills are acquired over the course of development, informing typical development models of facial expression recognition and our understanding of atypical development.
Funding: Australian Catholic University Research Funding - AUD$40,000
Duration: 2014-2015
Investigators: Dr Megan Willis, A/Prof Romina Palermo (UWA) and Dr Nicholas Badcock (MQ)

A neurobiological comparison of social cognitive deficits in young adults with neurodevelopmental and anxiety disorders

Given oxytocin's crucial role in social functioning, research on the effects of oxytocin is now beginning to emerge across a wide range of disorders associated with social dysfunction and psychopathology, including not only Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but also Williams syndrome (WS) and Social anxiety disorder (SAD).
The current research aims to further understand the underlying mechanisms implicated in people with ASD, WS and SAD. Specifically, we will use MRI to carefully examine the structural and functional abnormalities in key brain regions associated with emotion and fear related behaviours. In addition, peripheral levels of key neuroendocrine hormones that are implicated to social and emotional behaviours will also be examined.
Funding: Australian Catholic University Research Funding- AUD$50,000
Duration: 2015-2016
Investigators: Dr Izelle Labuschagne, Dr Darren Hocking (La Trobe)

Understanding the mechanisms involved in fear conditioning in social anxiety disorder

Recent research has indicated that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a form of mild brain stimulation that temporarily alters neural excitability, may have the capacity to modulate brain functions associated with social anxiety such as fear consolidation. Specifically, recent evidence suggests that tDCS may be useful in modulating fearful memory processes which may be relevant to anxiety disorders such as social anxiety disorder. The current research will examine the effects of tDCS in young people with high and low social anxiety during an anticipatory fear learning paradigm.
Funding: Australian Catholic University, Faculty of Health Sciences' Early Career Research Grant - AUD$10,000
Duration: 2015-2016
Investigators: Dr Izelle Labuschagne

Neural Evidence for Prospective Memory Monitoring in Younger and Older Adults

This project uses Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to study younger and older adults' abilities to remember past events, imagine future scenarios, and remember to perform future intentions.
Funding: Australian Catholic University, Faculty of Health Sciences' Early Career Research Grant - AUD$10,000
Duration: 2015-2016
Investigators: Dr Nathan Rose