HBMRC Honour’s, Master’s and PhD students conduct high-quality research in our Digital Innovation in Mental Health and Well-Being, Neuroscience of Addiction and Mental Health, and Development and Disability over the Lifespan programs of research.

A summary of our students and their projects can be found below. 

We welcome enquiries from high-quality candidates to undertake projects in our research areas. Please contact us at hbmrc@acu.edu.au or view our current opportunities here. 

Neuroscience of Addiction and Mental Health Program Students

Hannah Thomson

PhD student
Investigating resting-state functional connectivity alterations and their mitigation in cannabis use disorder

My research explores cannabis use disorder and the practice of mindfulness, using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Specifically, my research examines differences in brain integrity between cannabis users and non-users, as well as the impact of a psychological intervention on potential differences and associated behavioural changes. I am also practising psychology with the Neuropsychology Department at Eastern Health.

Hannah Sehl

Combined Master’s (Clinical Psychology) and PhD student
Mapping and retraining altered brain function in moderate-to-severe cannabis use disorder: A randomised double-blind active-controlled fMRI study

My research aims to better understand the neurobiological mechanisms implicated in cannabis use disorder. My research examines differences in brain activity during reward processing pre and post psychological intervention using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Findings from this research will contribute to the literature aiming to identify and inform targets for the treatment of cannabis use disorder. 

Emily Robinson

PhD student
Investigating white matter integrity predating and following youth cannabis use, using diffusion weighted imaging from the IMAGEN longitudinal consortium

The focus of my research is investigating differences in white matter integrity in adolescent cannabis users. Several studies have shown that adolescent cannabis users have altered white matter integrity, compared to healthy controls, however it is not known if these differences existed before cannabis use onset. Using a sample from the IMAGEN consortium, I’ll be investigating white matter integrity in adolescent participants both before and after commencing cannabis use, and the impacts this may have on white matter integrity

Marianna Gabriela Quinones Valera

Master’s (Clinical Psychology) student
Mapping attentional bias in cannabis users compared to controls

My research examines attentional bias towards cannabis vs neutral cues (using a visual probe task) in people with cannabis use disorder compared to controls. Findings from this research will contribute to the literature exploring attentional bias in cannabis use disorder, particularly on prevention and treatment. 

Janelle Chilton

Master’s (Developmental Psychology) student
Creating the new Cannabis Research Image Database (CRESIDA)

I am part of the Cannabis Research ESI mages DA (CRESIDA) Validation Study. This is a collaboration with researchers at the University of Bath (Dr Tom Freeman) and University of Amsterdam (Dr Janna Cousijn). The study seeks to develop a validated battery of cannabis pictures against cannabis use levels and craving. The battery will ultimately be available via open access for research purposes.

Emillie Beyer

Honour’s student
Using sMRI to examine amygdala and hippocampal volumes in people with a moderate-to-severe cannabis use disorder

My objective is to use structural MRI tools to investigate amygdala and hippocampal volumetric differences between people with a cannabis use disorder (CUD) compared to controls; and the association between volumes in people with a CUD and chronicity of cannabis use and greater mental health problems. Since cannabis is the world most commonly used illicit substance, this research plays a crucial role in improving our understanding of the core neurobiology of CUDs and, in turn, inform the identification of targets for treatment. I will contribute to collect data, delivering a short intervention and to participants’ recruitment. My project is nested within a larger ongoing project, and I am contributing to collect data and participants’ recruitment.

Claire Ee Cheng Chua

Honour’s student
Do sex differences exist in the neurobiology of cannabis use disorder? A sMRI study of the orbitofrontal cortex

Sex differences exist in cannabis use behavior but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. My project will focus on exploring sex differences in the neuroanatomy of moderate to severe cannabis use disorder (CUD) vs controls, by comparing orbitofrontal cortex (thickness and volume). My project will contribute to address limitations of the literature to date which over-represents males and animal studies. The project will use data from the a larger ongoing project. I will contribute to collect data, delivering a short intervention and to participants’ recruitment. My project will advance the understanding of the mechanisms underlying sex differences in CUD.

Stephanie Antonopoulos

Honour’s student
Examining volumetric alterations of the striatum in Cannabis Users compared to controls using sMRI

My project is nested within a larger ongoing project, and will focus on examining whether there are anatomical differences in the striatum in people with a CUD users compared to controls. The striatum plays a key role in reinforcement and habit formation, and like other parts of the brain, has been known to change in its structure when affected by drug abuse. My research has important implications for developing a comprehensive understanding in the way CUD affects the brain. I will contribute to collect data, delivering a short intervention and to participants’ recruitment.


Elizabeth Sharp

Volunteer Research Assistant

I am a Psychology Honours graduate and a volunteer research assistant with the Neuroscience of Addiction and Mental Health Program. My role in the program involves assisting with supporting the recruitment for a large ongoing MRI study (Brain-Cann). Specifically, I am supporting data collection in a number of ways including: advertisement, screening of participants, cognitive testing, assisting with MRI scans, administration of questionnaires and semi-structured interviews on mental health and substance use. My role is in line with my interest in researching brain changes across the lifespan and the impact of mental health disorders on the brain; and will assist me in developing experience in cognitive testing with complex populations.

Development and Disability Over the Lifespan Program Students

Emily Subara-Zukic

PhD student
The development of dual-tasking: An Ecological assessment of children with and without Developmental Coordination Disorder

This program of research examines the development of dual-task ability in children with and without Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). I am investigating the mechanisms of performance that may explain the age-related changes in dual-task ability using a hybrid ecological approach. I will also be examining the underlying mechanisms of compromised predictive motor and cognitive control in DCD and their implications for dual-tasking. These findings will progress our mechanistic understanding of dual-tasking across a variety of real-world movement contexts and have critical safety and learning implications for developing children.

Catherine Hilly

PhD student
Feasibility of the CO-OP Approach
TM to improve occupational performance and participation for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and coordination difficulties.

My research is focused on exploring the feasibility of an evidence-based Occupational Therapy approach for children with FASD and coordination difficulties called the Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance ApproachTM (CO-OP). This is a cognitive based intervention that uses a problem-solving approach to enable skill acquisition to support children to do everyday activities. It aims to build child problem solving approach to addressing everyday activity performance challenges and caregiver capacity to support children engage in the problem-solving approach. Currently much intervention supporting children with FASD addresses child neurocognitive deficits and increasing caregiver capacity. This research will explore the feasibility and acceptability of the CO-OP ApproachTM.

James Czenz

PhD student
Evaluating exercise interventions for adults with complex forms of cerebral palsy

A decline in mobility and physical activity is commonly experienced by young adults with cerebral palsy, despite the injury to the brain not being progressive. The broad aim of my PhD program is to examine exercise-based interventions for complex CP, and to enhance sustainable opportunities for exercise that will improve participation and wellbeing in these individuals.

Jona Mustafovska

PhD student
Dual-tasking in Older Adults: An ecological approach

My focus will be on mapping age-related changes in dual-task performance in older adults. My research will use an ecological approach to better understand the development of dual-task control in older adults, by considering a combination of individual cognitive and motor control factors, task features and environmental constraints. This work has important implications for the development of dual-task training programs in older adults. 


Eduardo Duarte Machado

Master’s (Philosophy) student
The effectiveness of dance therapy in participation on children with Cerebral Palsy according to the Family of Constructs Related to Participation (fPRC)

My focus will be on mapping participation levels in children with Cerebral Palsy involved in dance therapy. My research will use the Family of Constructs Related to Participation (fPRC) and the ICF to better understand the intrinsic and extrinsic factors of participation and the correlation with the motor, cognitive, psychological, and social outcomes of dance therapy in children with CP. This work has important implications for the development of dance therapy in children with CP and will help to establish a new concept of participation putting in place the fPRC.

Alycia Pike

Master’s (Developmental Psychology) student
The psychometric properties of dual-task cost metrics: A systematic review and meta-analysis

The aim of my project is to evaluate the reliability and validity of measures of dual-task performance, particularly dual task cost (DTC). My research will use a combined systematic review and meta-analysis of the existing dual-task literature, across populations. This research has important implications for the clinical assessment of dual-task abilities, and the use of these metrics to predict functional performance in everyday life.

Joyce Lim

Combined Master's (Educational and Developmental Psychology) and PhD student
EDNA PlayBoards: Understanding the design of playful activities on interactive surfaces to increase social participation and activity of older residents in community care

My focus will be on the use of technology to promote healthy ageing. My research will use a mixed-method approach to evaluate the effectiveness of an interactive tabletop display device in encouraging social and physical activity in older adults. This work has important implications for the development of technology that promotes health outcomes in older adults.

Ebony Corless

Honour’s student
Establishing the validity and reliability of a locomotor-cognitive dual-task protocol using a non-motorised treadmill

The focus of my project is to determine the validity and reliability of a new paradigm designed to assess changes in gait metrics during cognitive-motor dual-tasking using a non-motorised treadmill. The purpose is to establish a dual-task protocol that eliminates the weaknesses of current protocols and can be used in future cognitive and motor control investigations in a variety of healthy and clinical populations.

Digital Innovation in Mental Health and Wellbeing Program Students

Rebecca Taskis

PhD student
A Systematic Literature Review of the Use of Machine Learning Methods in Identifying the Factors Related to Effectiveness, Acceptability and Fidelity of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.

Despite the success of CBT as a psychotherapeutic intervention, there are very few studies, if any, that can demonstrate how it works. The limitations of statistical methods have inhibited the understanding of the mechanisms of action of CBT. With its ability to process large amounts of data machine learning may provide a deeper level of insight into this question.

My key interest area is in the application of machine learning methods to assess, understand, and improve motivations and psychotherapeutic interventions for mental wellbeing and healthy behaviour change in young Australians.

Sadaf Askaryar

Master’s student
Eudaimonic Wellbeing and Depression in Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Psychological interventions that promote wellbeing alongside reducing depressive symptoms are vital for improved long-term outcomes. My research aims to examine the effectiveness of psychological interventions in improving eudaimonic wellbeing in adolescents diagnosed with a major depressive disorder. This research will involve a systematic review and meta-analysis of the current literature.

Matthew Lewis

Honour’s student
Examining the differences between perceived and biological-markers of stress in carers of young people with experience of psychosis

My focus is to determine if hair cortisol and momentary experiences of stress can measure stress as well as self-report measurements do in carers of first-episode psychosis patients. I will also examine if demographic variables such as age, marital status and years of education completed can predict stress levels in carers of first-episode psychosis patients.

Social Cognitive Neuroscience Research Program Students

Simone Mizzi

Combined Master’s (Clinical Psychology) and PhD student
(Epi)genetics of oxytocin and neuroimaging in social anxiety disorder

The project I am working on aims to better understand the neurobiological mechanisms implicated in social anxiety disorder through the integration of magnetic resonance imaging of the brain and (epi)genetic research methodologies (with a focus on the oxytocinergic system). Findings from this research will contribute to the literature aiming to identify biomarkers to improve diagnostic accuracy, treatment approaches, and outcomes for people with social anxiety disorder.

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