Page 28-29 - NeuRA 2013 in Review

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Conduct disorder in early childhood, such as systematic aggression,
lying and stealing, is the single biggest risk factor for mental disorders
in adulthood. And yet, nearly 40% of children do not respond to existing
interventions. This may be because a little-studied subtype of conduct
disorder exists, in which children have an impaired recognition of fear in
facial expressions and thus develop callous and unemotional traits.
The neurological basis for these subtypes is being researched at NeuRA,
as well as a possible intervention where children learn to intentionally
direct their attention toward others’ eyes, using eye tracking during MRI.
Identifying those at high
risk of bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder is a severe and
complex mood disorder affecting
more than 350,000 Australians.
Children of individuals with bipolar
disorder are at increased risk of
mental illness, but tools to predict
which of these genetically at-risk
young people will eventually develop
the disorder are very imprecise.
Our scientists are using genetic
information, plus brain imaging, to
detect structural changes that may
predict which ‘at-risk’ individuals are
likely to become ill.
This study will help elucidate early
clinical and biological markers of
bipolar disorder.
Cannabis and the teenage brain
Research has found that the brain network
responsible for mediating the effects of cannabis,
the endocannabinoid system, undergoes high
levels of change during adolescence, making it
more vulnerable to the drug during this time.
Understanding this is important because
cannabis use is common among teens, and
adolescence is a time when adult behaviours
and decision-making are being developed.
Our discovery that the adolescent brain may
be more vulnerable to the effects of cannabis
is significant for the onset of schizophrenia.
‘‘
Conduct disorder in early childhood,
such as systematic aggression, lying and
stealing, is the single biggest risk factor
for mental disorders in adulthood.
For more information on all research
projects, visit
neura.edu.au
Your Mental Health | 27
The two faces of conduct disorder
Clockwise from top left:
Prof Rhoshel Lenroot studies eye tracking with
PhD student Pui Ka Yeung; Dr Jan Fullerton in the genetics lab; Cannabis
use is being investigated for its role in schizophrenia and dementia; children
with conduct disorder learn to direct their attention to others’ eyes.