Thursday, 25 February 2016

Social and Organisational Psychology Research Group Seminar

Please come and join us for a research presentation by Dr Michelle Kelly

WHEN: Tuesday 1st March, 12-1pm

WHERE: Keats Reading Room, Psychology Building, Callaghan (Video link to Ourimbah Science Offices Meeting Room)

WHAT: Research presentation by Dr Michele Kelly (School of Psychology, the University of Newcastle) entitled “Novel Ways of Examining Social Cognition

ABSTRACT: The way that we interact with others in our social world is crucial to our health and wellbeing. Despite this, research into the mechanisms underlying successful social interaction is only in its infancy, particularly when it comes to assessing an individuals’ social cognition. Social cognition refers to how we pick up on cues in our social world, for example, how we read emotions from another person’s face, tone of voice or  posture, the ability to think about another person’s thoughts (referred to as theory of mind), how we express empathy, and how we make decisions in social situations. Whilst we know that many clinical populations such as those with Schizophrenia, dementia or acquired brain injury have social cognition impairments, there is a paucity of tools to assess these functions. I will discuss some of the experimental and clinical tools available and new ways of looking at the problem.
BIO: Michelle Kelly is Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the School of Psychology, University of Newcastle, Australia. Michelle’s research focuses on the investigation and development of tools for assessing social cognition in healthy populations, as well as clinical groups including those with a diagnosis of dementia and those who have sustained a traumatic brain injury. Michelle is a member of the Priority Research Centre for Generational Health and Ageing and the Priority Research Centre for Brain and Mental Health.


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Special colloquium talk on the effects of aging on quantitative MRI values in the human subcortex; Thur 1:30pm.

The Functional Neuroimaging Lab invites you to a special colloquium talk:

Effects of aging on quantitative MRI values in the human subcortex.
Dr Max C Keuken, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

WHEN: Thursday 25 February, 1:30-2:30pm
WHERE: Keats Reading Room (AVG17)

The aging brain undergoes several anatomical changes that can be measured with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Early studies using lower field strengths have assessed changes in tissue properties mainly qualitatively, using T1- or T2*- weighted images to provide image contrast. With the development of higher field strengths (7 Tesla and above) and more advanced MRI contrasts, quantitative measures can be acquired even of small subcortical structures. In this talk I will present some of the volumetric, spatial, and quantitative MRI parameter changes associated with healthy aging in a range of subcortical nuclei, including the basal ganglia, red nucleus and, the periaqueductal grey.

Dr Max C. Keuken is currently a post-doctoral researcher in the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam. Max completed his Ph.D in 2015 at the University of Amsterdam, NL, under the supervision of Birte U. Forstmann and Robert Turner. His main research interest is the role of subcortical nuclei in decision-making using ultra-high field structural and functional MRI. Despite being less than 1yr post-PhD, Max has 23 papers published in high-impact peer reviewed journals since 2008, including  7 as 1st author, giving him an H-index of 11 and over 450 citations.

Max was awarded an ECR Visiting Fellowship by FSCIT to work with A/Prof Karayanidis’ group on model-based cognitive neuroscience analyses of cognitive flexibility and response inhibition in young adults.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The School of Psychology's Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group presents

A Seminar by Dr Angela Nickerson

Mechanisms Underlying Refugee Mental Health: Implications for Psychological Treatment

When: Wednesday 2nd March from 12:00 to 1:00pm
Where: Keats Room - Psychology Building (AVLG17 - Old Aviation Building), Callaghan Campus, University of Newcastle

Elevated rates of psychological disorders have been documented in refugees. Little is known, however, about the mechanisms by which psychopathology develops following exposure to refugee-related trauma and torture. This presentation will outline a theoretical model that proposes pathways to adaptation following trauma and displacement. Findings from empirical studies testing components of this model will then be presented. These studies will examine the impact of both refugee experiences (trauma exposure and post-migration living difficulties) and internal processes (memory dysfunction, cognitive processes and emotion regulation) on refugee mental health. Implications of these research findings for psychological interventions will be discussed.

About Dr Nickerson:
Angela Nickerson is Senior Lecturer and NHMRC Clinical Early Career Research Fellow at the School of Psychology, UNSW Australia. She is also Director of the Refugee Taruma and Recovery Program. Angela’s research focuses on uncovering mechanisms underlying psychological disorders in refugees and asylum-seekers, with the aim of improving psychological interventions for these groups and informing policy and service provision.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group

Please come and join us for a PhD research proposal presentation by Jichun (Jessy) Hao.

When: 24th February, 12:00

Where: Keats Reading Room, Psychology (Aviation) Building (video to Ourimbah Science Offices).

Title: Mindfulness and psychological health in Chinese and Australian university students: The role of attachment and social integration


The transition to university is a unique and challenging experience for most people and with the growth of tertiary education how people cope with this transition has become an increasingly important issue. Student mental health not only impacts on their current and future wellbeing but also on their families, Universities, and the larger society. In this research I intend to study how trait mindfulness, together with attachment styles and social integration, affects Chinese and Australian university students’ psychological well-being. In this presentation I will first set up the background by discussing past theoretical and empirical work. Then I will briefly state my aims and present a hypothesised model as well as the proposed research methodology. I will also present who and how I intend to recruit and what data analysis technique I will use. Lastly I will end with the feasibility and timelines for this research.

Former Staff Member Rejoins the School of Psychology to Research Bipolar Disorder and Mathematical Models in Human Decision Making

Conjoint Associate Professor Rachel Heath rejoined the staff of the School of Psychology in 2015, 40 years after starting as Lecturer in Psychology at this University. Rachel’s current research has involved the discovery of a new mathematical method for predicting bipolar disorder episodes. In collaboration with Professor Greg Murray from the Swinburne University of Technology, Rachel showed how an index derived from physical activity measurements could detect the early signs of a manic episode in a young person diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This paper has been accepted for publication in Fractal Geometry and Nonlinear Analysis in Medicine and Biology. Rachel also published a paper in Nonlinear Dynamics in Psychology and Life Sciences showing how fluctuations in mood ratings obtained from a unipolar depressed person can be represented by nonlinear processes that approach the edge-of-chaos.

Rachel has dedicated both these papers in memory of Susan Heath (1950-2014).

Rachel and her contrabassoon:

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Muslim-NonMuslim Partnership Project Wins APS Peace Research Award and Marks a New Equity–Diversity Focus in the School

Fatima Azam (left) and Stefania Paolini (right) have won the 2015 APS Psychologist for Peace Research Award and have been shortlisted for the 2015 Muslim-nonMuslim Understanding Award for their hijab stall initiative. The recognition of the merit of their action research in areas of social inclusion timely marks a new focus of the school on Equity and Diversity.

Australia is currently afflicted by a social climate of hype and negative media around Muslim and non-Muslim relationships (e.g., protests by ‘Reclaim Australia’). Fatima and Stefania’s intercommunity initiative was aimed at instigating positive change in the community and within the university, as well as create a platform for open and respectful dialogue between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians towards a more harmonious and genuinely integrated multicultural Australia.

The hijab stall project is an intercommunity engagement and research initiative undertaken at the University of Newcastle, between March and September 2015. Non-Muslim women from students, staff, and the general community were invited to attend a hijab stall where they could learn from Muslim women why they wear different headcoverings. They were also invited to try one on. Fatima with 14 other female Muslim volunteers from a variety of national backgrounds and wearing different Islamic headcoverings , ran seven hijab stalls across three UON campuses and Newcastle CBD precinct over a period of six months. These hijab stalls contributed to important diversity and equity initiatives, like 2015 Harmony Day, and Cultural Awakening Day. They involved also many non-Muslim volunteers thus modelling genuine intercommunity dialogue and partnership. 

The hijab stall project also offered the basis for Fatima’s honours research and a new and larger research project sponsored by an Australian Research Council’s Discovery Project awarded to Dr Paolini which aims at identifying new ways to break down barriers between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians, and more broadly increase social harmony and integration in Australia’s diverse society. Fatima has been invited to receive the award and present her research at the 2016 APS congress in Melbourne, next September.

The announcement of this award marks the beginning of a new focus on Equity and Diversity issues by UON School of Psychology. A new Equity and Diversity working party, chaired by Stefania and including 25+ members of staff and postgraduate students in the school, was established this week. It will drive the Indigenization of psychology curricula and aspires to take the school and its broader areas of influence towards more inclusive psychology teaching, research, and professional practice.

Newcastle faculty and studnets present their research in Hobart

If the School of Psychology in UoN had been awfully quite over the past week, it was for a good reason: faculty members and RHD students from the school presented their research in the annual meeting of the Australian Society of Mathematical Psychology. This year's meeting was held in Hobart, Tasmania, hosted by no other than the illustrious Prof. Andrew Heathcote, who holds appointments in both the University of Tasmania and the University of Newcastle. The conference was a great success, including presentations by Simon Dennis and several research students (Nathan Evans, Paul Garret, Zach Howard, and Gabriel Tillman).