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Miranda Chilver graduated from the University of New South Wales with a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours First Class) in 2017. During her undergraduate degree, she worked as a research assistant for A/Prof Thomas Whitford, where she gained experience in EEG and ERP analysis. Following the submission of her honours thesis, she presented her results of her project at the Science of the Self Conference in Coogee, Sydney Australia. Miranda joined NeuRA early in 2018 to study her PhD in the Gatt Resilience lab where she continues to use her skills in EEG research to understand the physiology of mental wellbeing and resilience.
Previous reports indicate that online interventions have the potential to improve mental wellbeing in the general population. However, most of these studies have focused on reducing mental illness symptoms such as depression and anxiety without focusing on improvements in positive measures of mental health such as those measured by Dr Justine Gatt’s COMPAS-W measure of wellbeing. It is important to confirm whether online interventions can promote positive aspects of mental health while also reducing negative symptoms in the student population as this would suggest improvements in mental resilience.
Furthermore, examining changes in mental wellbeing over time and how it relates to electroencephalography (EEG) activity over time can help clarify whether previously found associations between EEG and wellbeing are causative in nature.
Thus, this project has two key aims:
This project will help the development of more effective and targeted wellbeing interventions that can be delivered on large scales while simultaneously improving the theoretical understanding of the associations between EEG activity and mental wellbeing.
The majority of adults without a mental illness still experience poor mental health, indicating a need for a better understanding of what separates mental wellness from mental illness. One way of exploring what separates those with good mental health from those with poor mental health is to use electroencephalography (EEG) to explore differences in brain activity within the healthy population. Previous research has shown that EEG measures differ between clinical groups and healthy participants, suggesting that these measures are useful indicators of mental functioning.
Miranda Chilver’s current project aims to examine how different EEG measures relate to each other and to test if they can be used to predict mental wellbeing. Furthermore, she hopes to distinguish between EEG markers of symptoms including depression and anxiety, and markers of positive symptoms of wellbeing to better understand how wellbeing can exist independently of mental illness. This will be done by obtaining measures of wellbeing and depression and anxiety symptoms using the COMPAS-W and DASS-42 questionnaires, respectively.
Because EEG measures and mental wellbeing are both impacted by genetics as well as the environment, Miranda will also be testing whether the links found between EEG activity and Wellbeing are driven primarily by heritable or by environmental factors. This information will inform the development of future interventions that will aim to improve wellbeing in the general population.
To achieve these goals, the project will assess the relationship between EEG activity and wellbeing, and between EEG and depression and anxiety symptoms to first test whether there is an association between EEG and mental health. Second, the heritability of the EEG, wellbeing, depression, and anxiety will be assessed to determine the extent to which these variables are explained through heritable or environmental factors. Finally, a model assessing the overlap between the heritable versus environmental contributions to each measure will be developed to assess whether genetics or environment drive the relationship between EEG and mental health.
This project is based on a sample of over 400 healthy adult twins from the Australian TWIN-E study of resilience led by Dr Justine Gatt. This research will pave the way for improved mental health interventions based on individual needs.
ELYSE CHAMPAIGNE-KLASSEN Research Assistant
MADELEINE RHODES Visiting Student