Sina Mansour Lakouraj

Connectomics, Complex Networks, Algorithms

Degree/University: PhD student at The University of Melbourne

Area of Research: Computational Neuroscience

Research Project: Connectomics is an approach to study the neuroimaging data and map the connectivity of the human brain to a network model. This network representation is shown to be a powerful tool for neuropsychiatry research to study whole brain connectivity and its relation to psychopathology. However, most connectomics studies are focused in low resolutions of ~100 nodes. The potential advantages of utilising a high-resolution connectome directed my research toward tackling the computational complexities of modelling the high-resolution vertex-based human brain networks to promote high-resolution connectomic studies in the future.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sina_Mansour_L

Georgia Caruana

Bipolar disorder, Neuroanatomy, Cognition

Degree/University: PhD student at The University of Melbourne

Area of Research: Neuropsychiatry

Research Project: Georgia is undertaking her PhD project as part of the Mood-Psychosis Spectrum group at the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre. Her project is entitled “Understanding factors associated with white matter integrity in bipolar disorder” and seeks to comprehensively investigate the relationship between the structure and function of the brain in bipolar disorder. Beyond the mood symptoms of bipolar disorder, cognitive impairments, particularly in the domains of processing speed, memory, attention and executive functioning, are key features associated with the morbidity of the condition. Whilst these deficits are common, the neurobiological mechanisms subserving them are yet to be fully elucidated. Abnormalities in white matter tracts and neural circuitry may underpin these functional deficits; a key area of interest in Georgia’s research. Given the complexity of the brain’s white matter network, and the multifactorial nature of mental health disorders, Georgia’s project is also investigating the numerous biopsychosocial correlates relevant to white matter integrity and cognition in bipolar disorder; including inflammation, stress and trauma. By using a combination of neuroimaging, neurobiological and neuropsychological analyses, Georgia hopes to understand the extent to which these various factors and white matter alterations either additively or synergistically influence cognitive outcomes for bipolar disorder patients. Georgia is passionate about brain research that is translatable into tangible clinical/public health outcomes, and advocating for ending the stigma surrounding mental health disorders.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/georgiacaruana

Yara Toenders

Psychiatry, Neuroimaging, Subtyping

Degree/University: PhD student at The University of Melbourne

Area of Research: Neuropsychiatry

Research Project: Early onset of MDD has negative social, occupational and financial consequences. Identifying predictors of MDD could help developing prevention strategies and thereby avoid these negative long-term outcomes. Knowing which people are at risk for developing depression may help prevent MDD onset, however, developing more effective early intervention strategies for MDD is equally important. Unfortunately, current treatments are not vastly effective, which might be explained by the highly heterogeneous nature of MDD. To be diagnosed with MDD, only 5 of the 9 DSM criteria have to be met. Considering that some of the criteria include opposite symptoms (e.g. increased vs decreased appetite), almost 1500 different symptom profiles can result in the same diagnosis of MDD. Therefore, refining MDD into more homogeneous subtypes is a critical step towards identifying underlying pathophysiological mechanisms and improving treatment allocation of young people suffering from depression. I aim to (1) examine the predictive characteristics of clinical, cognitive and neurobiological factors on future onset of MDD in a longitudinal sample of young people, and (2) study data-driven symptom subtypes of depression in young people and their (neuro)biological correlates.