Health, Disability and Lifespan Development lunch-time seminar

The next Health, Disability and Lifespan Development lunch-time seminar will be presented by Dr. Moira Jenkins. Her presentation will be on ‘Barriers faced by bullied workers returning to work – A focus group study’.

Date: Wednesday, 28th August, 2013
Time: 12.30 – 2.00 p.m.
Venue: Room 526/527, Level 5 Hughes Building

Sandwiches and coffee will be provided at 1.30pm.
Please see further information and abstract in the attached flyer.

by COB Monday, 26th August for catering purposes.

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Brain imaging advance, promising answers for mild injury sufferers

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) affect tens of thousands of Australians, mostly young males, every year.

Tragically, a number of these will result in death or permanent disability. But for most, the injury is considered mild. Within this “mild” group however, a small number continue to suffer debilitating effects for many years, long after others in similar circumstances have recovered. Reasons for this have been a mystery for quite some time. Are existing brain injury assessment techniques failing to identify hidden damage? An exciting new imaging technique being researched at the University of Adelaide is helping to reveal the answer. Called “Diffusion Tensor Imaging”  (DTI), the unique non-invasive technique is a variation of existing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology  and has been utilised by the University’s Adelaide Centre for Neuroscience Research.

According to project leader Professor Jane Mathias of the School of Psychology, it allows a clearer picture to be gained of the microstructure of the brain’s white matter. “We can now more accurately and reliably delineate neural pathways in healthy white matter, and in turn use this technology to identify subtle disruptions to those pathways as a result of mild TBIs,” she said. This important advance promises to help explain why people with outwardly similar mild TBIs – whether sustained through a motor vehicle accident, sporting injury, assault, or workplace or accidental injury – can experience different cognitive, psychological and physical effects, to varying degrees and over different timeframes. “We’re investigating this, along with the influence of several other possible contributing factors that may either increase the impact of an injury or help to protect a person against its effects,” said Professor Mathias. “These include the severity and cause of an injury, the site and side of impact, the influence of alcohol, genetic differences that may affect the physiological effects of an injury and pre-injury levels of functionality.”

The team is comparing five test groups. Three have had a TBI – one “mild”, another “moderate” and the third “severe”. A fourth group is composed of people who’ve had another type of injury not involving the head, such as a broken leg, and the final group is injury-free. “Each person completed a series of cognitive tasks and questionnaires, had a DTI brain scan, and provided a sample of saliva for genetic testing,” said Professor Mathias. “A subset also underwent the same procedures a year later so we could see what, if any, changes had occurred. The results are now in and we’re assessing the extent to which each of these factors, including any subtle differences in neural pathways revealed by DTI, can explain the varying functional deficits experienced by mild-TBI patients.” The next step is to identify some of the factors that increase the risk of a person having a poor outcome, and to use this information to improve the treatment, rehabilitation and quality of life of these people.

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Five positive things about Positive Psychology!

Hey – our names are Dr Rachel Earl and Dr Anthony Venning. We are Positive Psychology researchers at the University of Adelaide.

Positive Psychology is a branch of psychology that investigates the positive aspects of our lives – work, families, relationships, communities and societies. Positive Psychology has captured our interests because it offers a fresh perspective and complements other important work that our fellow colleagues conduct in psychology, psychiatry, medicine, social work and allied health.

We have just returned from the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) Conference in Los Angeles where we learnt some new things (and had some of our views reinforced) about Positive Psychology. Maybe these observations will be new to you too!

  • Positive Psychology brings people together. Well we already knew this! But it was great to see that researchers, clinicians, educators, students, business leaders, coaches, and consultants are all interested in Positive Psychology. This included areas as diverse as neuroscience, education (primary, secondary and tertiary education), design, environmental health, meditation, gaming … and even Hollywood film making!
  • Positive Psychology is Global! Researchers and practitioners from all over the world are active in Positive Psychology – every continent was represented at this conference. What’s great to know is that there was a strong delegation from Australia and the international audience showed great interest in what we had to say!
  • Positive Psychology helps us to learn more about what it is to be human. Emotions like ‘love’ seem abstract and hard to define but researchers in positive psychology are showing that love can be defined (differently to how you may think) and that experiences of love (and other positive emotions) can help us be healthier.  Learn more
  • Positive Psychology is embracing technology. Researchers are using technology to learn more about populations and to reach populations. This is best represented through two exciting pieces of work:
  • The World Well-Being Project at the University of Pennsylvania: A group of computer scientists, psychologists, and statisticians, are learning more about population wellbeing by analysing written expressions in social media such as on Facebook and Twitter (check out their work). So far they are finding that particular words and phrases can distinguish people with different personalities. If you find yourself tweeting about partying and expressing that you ‘cant wait’ for your next social catch-up, you may well be an extrovert!
  • SuperBetter: This mobile App is designed by gamers with input from researchers and scientists and seeks to build physical and emotional well-being. The game offers players support and ideas about how to achieve their quests and allows players to input their own innovative solutions. Rachel is currently using SuperBetter to progress her quest of exercising and she just achieved a health boost by ‘chugging’ a glass of water – that’s 2 resilience points! Be inspired by creator Dr Jane McGonical here.
  • Positive Psychology is looking to the future. How people can become future minded rather than live their lives controlled by the past is a key interest in Positive Psychology. This was a strong theme in Los Angeles and the final conference message was delivered by esteemed academic, Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who called for researchers to contribute to and lead explorations about the future of human civilisation: Who we will be as a species? Where and how we will live? And what will we be doing? These are bold considerations but ones which certainly capture our imagination at the University of Adelaide.

Come and hear more from researchers from the University of Adelaide and other leaders in South Australia at our Cafe Scientifique. Learn more

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Do certain parts of the brain stay young?

New research at the University of Adelaide is looking at how the human brain ages, which could lead to insights into how to repair the brain when it’s damaged by stroke or traumatic brain injury.

The study, being conducted in the University’s School of Psychology, will compare the ability of older and younger people to respond to visual and non-visual stimuli in order to measure their “spatial attention” skills.

“Spatial attention is extremely important in our day-to-day lives because it allows us to move around our environment and interact with other people,” says Dr Joanna Brooks, Research Fellow in the University’s School of Psychology.

“Being able to process spatial information can impact on many aspects of our lives, from driving, to walking down the street, or simply picking up a glass of water from a table.

“The part of the brain that controls spatial attention is called the right parietal lobe. We’re hoping that our study will shed light on how the right parietal lobe ages across the entire human lifespan,” Dr Brooks says. Learn more

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Cafe Scientifique in Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology at the School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, is a branch of psychology that researches the positive aspects of our lives – work, families, relationships, communities and societies.

The field of positive psychology is based on the idea that people inherently want to thrive, flourish, find meaning in their lives, and become more resilient and optimistic. Positive Psychology asks what makes life worth living and how can this be enhanced?

Professor Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, was the 24th Adelaide Thinker in Residence in 2012/13 and we are seeking to build on the success of his residency – over 9000 South Australians attended his public lectures.

Cafe Scientifique is a concept that started in the UK in the late 1980′s and has now spread worldwide – recently coming to Australia - and is basically an informal discussion in a public house.

Our Cafe Scientifique is officially the first in South Australia and will take the form of an informal scientific discussion with a panel of leaders working and researching in the field on:

Tuesday 20th August 2013, 5pm to 6pm, at The Lion North Adelaide. 

Our panellists are:
> Anthony Venning (Research and Clinical Psychologist, School of Psychology, UoA)
> Rebecca Graham (Executive Director Mental Health, Country Health SA)
> Paddy Steinfort (Leadership Development Manager, Adelaide Crows)

Come along and find out more about how Positive Psychology is shifting thinking in our State! Learn more

Contact details:

Dr Joanna Brooks
mobile 0428223574

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HDLD Seminar – Tuesday 23rd July – Dr Amelia Searle – Predicting early school success: how are children’s relationships with adults and their mental health related to their classroom engagement in the first school year?

The next Health, Disability and Lifespan Development lunch-time seminar for 2013 will be presented by Dr. Amelia Searle – Her presentation will be on ‘Predicting early school success: how are children’s relationships with adults and their mental health related to their classroom engagement in the first school year?’

Date: Tuesday 23rd July, 2013
Time: 12.30 – 2.00 p.m.
Venue: Room 526/527, Level 5 Hughes Building

Sandwiches and coffee will be provided at 1.30pm.
Please see further information and abstract in attached flyer.

by COB Friday 19th July for catering purposes.

For further information please view the attached flyer

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New study into impact on women of losing a baby

Researchers at the University of Adelaide hope that women who experience pregnancy loss – such as miscarriage and stillbirth – will receive better care thanks to new research aimed at finding out exactly what they go through at this difficult time in their lives.

Pregnancy loss is a major issue, with Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showing that 1,748 stillbirths (after 20 weeks’ gestation) were recorded in Australia in 2011.

Between 15-20% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage (prior to 20 weeks’ gestation) and there are many other miscarriages that go unrecorded. Some pregnancies are also terminated because of fetal abnormalities.

Speaking in the lead up to Red Nose Day, University of Adelaide Masters of Clinical Psychology student Catherine Collins says there is still relatively little research into what women experience, and how their pregnancy loss affects their relationships. Learn more

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Bowel Cancer Research project

Honours student Vicki Dimitrak is conducting a study concerning consumer preference of sample delivery for Colorectal Cancer (CRC) screening tests. The study will explore what people think about bowel cancer screening and preferences for different kinds of bowel cancer screening tests.

If you are aged between 40 to 74 years, male or female, Vicki is asking for your help in completing an online survey at

The survey will take approximately 15 minutes of your time.

Participants will go into a draw to win an Apple Ipad Mini (16GB).

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Congratulations to Kate Gunn

University of Adelaide students, graduates and staff dominated the 2013 Channel 9 Young Achiever Awards.

Psychology PhD student Kate Gunn won the prestigious Premier’s Young Achiever of the Year Award for South Australia as well as the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency Rural Health Award.

Six other members of the University of Adelaide community won awards, winning a total of seven out of 10 categories.

Kate Gunn is winner of the Young Achiever of the Year and the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency Rural Health Award.

Kate, 27 of Leabrook, is a Psychology PhD student with a keen interest in rural mental health. She received first class Honours at the University of Adelaide for her thesis on farmers’ stress and coping during drought. She enlisted assistance from the SA Farmers Federation obtaining data from 300 farmers. Her work has been published in the Parliamentary Library and International Journal of Rural and Remote Health. Kate has also conducted research on the emotional, social and practical needs of rural cancer patients. She worked with nine passionate participants to develop an 84-page, Country Cancer Support services information website. Learn more

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‘Practice’ makes a perfect lure for internet gambling

A simulated internet video poker machine in 'practice mode'. Image courtesy of Tahnee Frahn.

New research from the University of Adelaide has studied the behaviour of young people lured into internet gambling through so-called ‘free-play’ or ‘practice’ modes.

The study, by University of Adelaide Psychology student Tahnee Frahn, looked at the behaviour of 128 young people (most aged 18-24) who were playing on a simulated internet gaming site.

Ms Frahn says concerns have been raised about “dubious strategies” used by internet gambling to entice and retain players.

“Previous research has demonstrated that ‘free-play’ or ‘practice’ modes on some internet gaming sites provide unrealistically high returns to the players, who are encouraged with pop-up messages and emails to keep playing. However, those high returns are not continued when playing for actual money,” Ms Frahn says. Learn more

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