Wednesday, 20 November 2013


On Friday 15th November, UoN School of Psychology successfully hosted and co-organised with Hunter New England Health the biggest Psychology Professional Day in the Hunter in history. More than 230 psychologists gathered together on campus from the Health Service (50%), the University (20%), private practice (15%), government agencies (14%) and NGOs (2%) for a day of professional development on promoting clinical excellence and culturally respectful practices.

Aboriginal psychology was the key theme of this year’s conference. The key note speaker Professor Judy Atkinson has been a ‘big draw’ card for this year’s conference. She is a very experienced and respected clinician and academic in the area of working with Indigenous clients, particularly children who have experienced trauma. She has an extensive track record in research on transgenerational trauma, which the school has actively incorporated in its undergraduate curriculum for first year psychology students since 2011.

The key note speaker: Prof Judy Atkinson

Several members of staff, postgraduate, and undergraduate students attended and played an active role in the day. Stuart Marlin and Sean Halpin welcomed the conference delegates on behalf of the school and psychology clinic at the beginning of the day. Stefania Paolini, as active member of the conference organising committee, acted as a key conduit between HNE and UoN; on the day she convened a stimulating symposium on Newcastle-led research on Aboriginal wellbeing with Dr Mark Lock and Dr Jo Gwynn from the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health Research which has attracted the participation of a group of very diverse researchers from a variety of disciplinary areas. Sean Halpin has run a well-attended interactive workshop on assessment and diagnosis and Tony Kemp has offered continuous AV assistance on the lead to the conference and on the day and assisted a long list of speakers and workshop facilitators involved n the day. 

The conference showcased the great talent of psychologists we have locally, demonstrated the varied areas of clinical excellence in practice, and stressed the importance of effective interaction between educators in the school, psychologists working in the community, and the needs of culturally diverse clients.

This year’s event has been a nice demonstration of the psychologists from HNE Health service and The University of Newcastle working together. We look forward to newer opportunities in the future!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Another successful 4th Year Conference

On Monday the 5th November over 150 fourth year Psychology students and staff piled into buses, trains, and cars and headed to Panthers in Newcastle city to attend and present at the annual fourth year conference.  Honours students presented the results of their year’s research and the audiences were astounded with the quality of the presentations and the excellent research that had been conducted over the year. The annual photograph was taken with much mirth on the part of the photographed. In one presentation, Zisheng Chen explained the results of his study investigating Facebook and addiction to an audience which represented over 90% of the attendees; people were sitting on the floor and squeezing in the door. Karlye Damaso, Laura Wall, Mathew Marchant and Jade Frost won the Best Presentation Awards for their research investigating respectively mismatch negativity, working memory in schizophrenia, cross-species differences in decision making and maternal immune activation and its relation to schizophrenia. Excellent posters were also presented on a variety of topics with Matthew Cologon, Jade Draper, Allanah Hessel, Candice McIntyre and Richard Waters winning the Best Poster Award for their poster on mate choice decisions. Following the presentations and poster sessions, students and staff repaired to the bar for drinks and nibbles, music and dancing, and fun had by all.

Special Colloquium Dr Tony Simon Tuesday 19 November

Next week Dr Tony Simon from the UC Davis MIND Institute is visiting Newcastle. I have asked Tony to give a talk for the School on Tuesday the 19th of November at 11.30 in the Keats Room. I know it is late notice and not on our usual colloquium day but I hope that as many as possible can attend. Tony is an excellent speaker and does research that will be of interest to many in the School.

Dr. Tony J. Simon is a paediatric cognitive neuroscientist with a primary interest in clinical translational research. His studies focus on the cognitive, affective and neural basis of learning difficulties and psychopathologies that arise in genetic disorders. Dr. Simon’s primary methodology is the use of hypothesis-driven experimental tasks to characterize and measure cognitive and affective processing. His group’s current focus is on attention and aspects of executive function, such as cognitive control and working memory, as well as affective processing of fear and threat. The focus specifically is on how these “cold” and “hot” factors vary dynamically to impact cognitive processing and emotional regulation. The clinical translational research program incorporates standardized clinical measures of anxiety, adaptive functioning and psychopathologic symptomology as well stress biology to further understand the interaction of factors that contribute to each individual’s status as what Dr. Simon and his team refer to as “copers” or “strugglers”. To assess the neural basis of these factors the team acquires data on brain morphology, function and connectivity using T1-weighted structural images, diffusion weighted images, resting-state functional images and electrophysiological/event-related potential data.

All welcome for more information please contact Linda Campbell

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Psychology Research Grants at the Hunter Medical Research Institute Awards

Juanita, Renate, Elise, Peter, Lauren and Frini represented Psychology at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) Awards last night – a bit like the HMRI Oscars! A number of our Expressions of Interests had led to invitations to submit full applications of very high quality projects. Of these, the two projects below were funded:

HMRI Dalara Foundation Project Grants
Mapping Networks in the Brain
Renate Thienel, Frini Karayanidis, Juanita Todd, Peter Stanwell, Mark Parsons, Chris Levi

This project will use Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy lmaging (MRSI) technology to measure concentrations of neurotransmitters chemicals crucial for communication in the brain and evaluate the relationship between brain function and brain structure in normal and stroke patients to improve the early detection of the disease. This project has implications for translation to clinical samples such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, dyslexia, as well as cognitive remediation and brain stimulation approaches to functional recovery.

HMRI Male Depression Project Grant
Making use of Gaming Technologies to Help Young People Suffering from Depression and Binge Drinking.
Frances Kay-Lambkin, Peter Walla, Keith Nesbitt
Supported by: Lions Club of Toronto, Lioness Club of Toronto, The Estate of the Late Reginald Leslie Radford

Depression and binge drinking represent significant community problems, particularly for young people. Despite the high prevalence of these problems and the consequent need for treatment, rates of treatment access among young people remain the lowest of any age group. Internet-based treatments have the potential to meet this challenge. By combining startle reflex modulation with behavioural assessment, we will, for the first time, have a better understanding of the cognitive and affective response of young people to web-based psychological treatment for depression and binge drinking problems. The results of this study can facilitate the development of more engaging, and thus effective interventions for young people, and provide a useful methodological approach to evaluating these domains in future treatment studies

The quality of all the work was outstanding, and the non-winners did us proud as well. A list of all awards can be found here.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

2013 Professional Psychology Day

Presented by Hunter New England (HNE) Health and the University of Newcastle's School of Psychology, the Professional Psychology Day at the University's Callaghan campus is the biggest meeting of local psychologists in the Hunter.

Psychologists from HNE Health, private practice and the University will come together on 15 November to attend workshops presented by representatives from allied health and medical disciplines, as well as listen to keynote speakers including Professor Judy Atkinson.

The thematic focus of this year's event is Aboriginal psychology and Aboriginal Health related issues. Professor Atkinson has focused her community and academic life working in the field of violence, trauma and healing. Her academic contributions to the understanding of trauma related issues stemming from the violence of colonisation and the healing/recovery of Indigenous peoples from such trauma has won her the Carrick Neville Bonner Award in 2006 for her curriculum development and innovative teaching practice.

The 2013 Professional Psychology Day showcases the great talent of psychologists in the local area, and demonstrates the varied areas of clinical practice. It aims to help improve psychologists' knowledge and skills to enable them to better assess and treat clients, with the subtheme 'promoting clinical excellence and culturally respective practices' covering essential areas of psychology practice.

The day also provides University of Newcastle psychology students with an opportunity to connect with the professionals at the forefront of psychology service provision.

For more information about the 2013 Professional Psychology Day, please contact:

Dr Stefania Paolini (School of Psychology, University of Newcastle)

Mary Watson (Senior Clinical Psychologist, Child Adolescent Mental Health Service)

A/Prof. Tanya Hanstock (Senior Clinical Psychologist, Child & Family Health Service)