NeuRA Magazine #23

TIPS AND INFORMATION FROM DR JUSTINE GATT

With over 75% of the population reporting at least one or multiple major traumas in their lifetime, it is imperative that we understand why some people are more vulnerable and go on to develop mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, and why some are more adaptive and resilient.

In the field of mental health, most neuroscience research to date has focused on understanding what determines risk for mental illness and ways to treat it. In contrast, there are only a handful of studies which have started to look at the neuroscience of resilience and how to promote it.

Dr Justine Gatt and her research team at NeuRA, for the first time, will aim to identify the brain profiles which predict pathways towards resilience versus risk for mental illness over time. The team are currently doing this in a large sample of 1,600 adult twins ranging in age from 18 to 60 years. To start with, we have developed the first composite scale of wellbeing called the COMPAS-W which provides a combined measure of both subjective and psychological wellbeing.

The researchers are keen to test this measure in predicting patterns of resilience over time. To assist with this, Dr Gatt was recently successful in obtaining NHMRC funding to retest the twin sample 8 years after their initial characterisation. This study will be the first of its kind to show the neuroscience of longitudinal patterns of resilience (or risk) across adulthood. Beyond the current study in adults, the team is planning to take these studies to adolescents and children. They have already conducted a pilot study in 200 patients, looking at the promotion of optimal mental health and resilience as a global health priority. They have found some interesting patterns showing differences in levels of wellbeing across different cultures, and how different types of trauma exposure may modulate this process.

Childhood is a crucial period of personal and physical development, and a child’s brain is particularly vulnerable to the impact of different life experiences – both good and bad. It is therefore critical that we understand how trauma may impact the brain differently during different stages of development, and how optimal resilience can be promoted at different ages.

Grab a list of Dr Gatt’s Resilience tips HERE

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FEEL THE BUZZ IN THE AIR? US TOO.

The cold case of schizophrenia - broken wide open!

‘It is like they were miraculously healed!’’ Schizophrenia is diagnosed by clinical observation of behaviour and speech. This is why NeuRA researchers are working hard to understand the biological basis of the illness. Through hours of work and in collaboration with doctors and scientists here and around the world, NeuRA has made an amazing breakthrough. For the first time, researchers have discovered the presence of antibodies in the brains of people who lived with schizophrenia. Having found these antibodies, it has led NeuRA researchers to ask two questions. What are they doing there? What should we do about the antibodies– help or remove them? This is a key breakthrough. Imagine if we are treating schizophrenia all wrong! It is early days, but can you imagine the treatment implications if we’ve identified a new biological basis for the disease? It could completely change the way schizophrenia is managed, creating new treatments that will protect the brain. More than this, could we be on the verge of discovering a ‘curable’ form of schizophrenia? How you can help We are so grateful for your loyal support of schizophrenia research in Australia, and today I ask if you will consider a gift today. Or, to provide greater confidence, consider becoming a Discovery Partner by making a monthly commitment. We believe there is great potential to explore these findings. Will you help move today’s breakthrough into tomorrow’s cure? To read more about this breakthrough, click ‘read the full story’ below. You are also invited to read ‘Beth’s story’, whose sweet son Marcus lived with schizophrenia, by clicking here.
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