Monday, 30 November 2015

The UoN School of Psychology hosts the 25th Annual Conference of the Australasian Society of Psychophysiology!

The 25th Annual Conference of the Australasian Society of Psychophysiology is being held at the new Sydney CBD campus of the University of Newcastle (2-4th December) and features a stellar line up of national and international speakers. The School of Psychology is well represented with Juanita Todd delivering a keynote address and a host of the School’s staff and students presenting their latest research including Justin Timora, Kaitlin Fitzgerald, Michelle Kelly, Shannon Bosshard, Megan Wright, Kaine Griffith, Emma Woods, Jesse Bourke, Alex Provost, Jade Frost, Sajeev Kunaharan, Michael Cook, Karlye Damaso and Bill Budd.

Although abstract submission is now closed - School of Psychology staff or students who wish to attend the conference may still purchase day passes to attend the conference. Please visit the ASP2015 conference website ( or contact Bill Budd for more information (

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Commercialisation grant awarded to pursue Myopia treatment

A therapeutic solution aimed at slowing and possibly reversing the progression of Myopia (short-sightedness) is on the path from patent to product with the support of a $20,000 grant from Newcastle Innovation.

Dr Sally McFadden from the School of Psychology has been awarded the 2015 Newcastle Innovation Commercialisation in Research Grant at the recent HMRI Awards.

A research discovery identifying novel retinal signals and pathways in the eye causing ocular expansion and Myopia led to the repurposing of a drug as a new therapeutic target to control myopic eye growth. Myopia affects more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, with its prevalence on the rise most dramatically in Asia. Currently, there are no proven lasting ways to treat the condition either in terms of stabilising or preventing its progression.
The target drug has a well-established safety and efficacy profile and animal model studies have already shown it can be re-formulated into an opthalamtic drug delivery system that is: easily administered, targeted and cost-effective. Details of test results can be accessed here.

The commercialisation grant will enable Dr McFadden to undertake direct comparative data of therapeutic efficacy and toxicity with other potential anti-myopia drugs. This will enable Newcastle Innovation to engage in more detailed conversations with potential R&D partners with a view to seeking a license to commercially develop the new therapeutic solution to treat myopia.
A patent covering the methods of treatment of compositions of the potential novel formulations has been filed.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

JUST PUBLISHED: Drugs and Driving: from Brain to Bedside to Roadside

Stewart Oxley, a Prof Doc graduate in Clinical/Health Psychology, has just published his research on cognitive impairments following discharge from hospital for a sedative overdose showing that it can take a long time for cognition to recover (click here for access to the paper).

Stewart’s work followed up findings by PhD graduate, Tharaka Dassanayake, who found that such patients, even though considered clinically recovered, were still impaired cognitively at discharge in functions important for driving (see the publications both here and here). In a subsequent data-linkage study, Tharaka found that overdosed patients are 3-4 times more prone to a traffic accident during the first 2-3 days and 1.5 times during the first four weeks (see here). What was most surprising was that there was still an increased risk of a traffic accident up to 4-weeks following discharge.

It was this puzzle that Stewart’s project followed-up by studying the pattern of cognitive recovery in patients who overdosed with sedatives compared to a group who overdosed with non-sedative drugs. Although both groups improved over the following month, the sedative group's recovery was slower for cognitive functions underlying driving. Other variables (e.g., mood, medication and/or medication changes) could not explain slower cognitive recovery.

Patients could have impaired driving for at least 3 days, and possibly up to one week following sedative overdose. Simple cognitive tests (such as Trail-Making B) could be used to assess their fitness to drive.

This research was co-supervised by Pat Michie and Mater collaborators - Greg Carter, Alison Jones, and Ian Whyte. Gavin Cooper’s technical support was invaluable.  Tharaka has now returned to the Department of Physiology, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.  Stewart is completing his clinical registration and working as a psychologist in a private practice and for an employment service.  We wish them both every success in their future careers.

Friday, 20 November 2015

H&CPRG Seminar - A/Prof Jenny Bowman

Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group 

Please come and join us for a seminar by Associate Professor Jenny Bowman
When: 23rd November, 12:00
Where: Keats Reading Room, Psychology Building, Callaghan (Video link to Ourimbah Science Meeting Rooms)
Title: 'Physical Health in Mental Illness: a journey of discovery'
Abstract: In Australia, people with a mental illness die 12 to 15 years earlier than those without a mental illness. Excess deaths among people with a mental illness are largely attributable to physical chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and respiratory disease. A higher prevalence of 'preventable' behavioural risk factors are heavily implicated (including smoking, inadequate nutrition, harmful alcohol consumption and inadequate physical activity). In this presentation, I will talk about some of our group's collaborative research which has addressed these risks among people with a mental illness, and in particular has involved working with mental health services to identify effective means of providing preventive care for clients.  

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Breaking news - SCAN staff and students’ are our stars this week!

Breaking news - SCAN staff and students’ are our stars this week!
This week, SCAN staff and students have received numerous awards.
Firstly, Dr. Juanita Todd was awarded Supervisor of the Year Award at the NUPSA dinner on Sunday (15th Nov) night!
Secondly at the same dinner, Patrick Cooper and Alex Conley, were both awarded Faculty Outstanding Postgraduate (Research) Student Awards!  Both Patrick and Alex are supervised by Frini Karayanidis.
Thirdly, at the Postgraduate and Postdoctoral Conference of the Priority Research Centre (PRC) for Brain and Mental Health held at HMRI on Tuesday (17th Nov), 4 students from Psychology received awards.  In fact, psychology students scooped the pool!
Jade Frost (Sup Juanita Todd) from SCAN was awarded the Best Oral Presentation by the PRC.
Erin Fuller (Sup Deb Hodgson) from SCAN was awarded the Best Poster by the PRC
Jaime Rennie (Sup Frini Karayanidis) from SCAN was awarded the School of Psychology best poster prize
And in addition, Jane Goodwin (Sup Linda Campbell) from the Health and Clinical group was award the School of Psychology best presentation prize.