Psychology

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.

RSVP to juliet.summers@adelaide.edu.au
by COB Monday, 26th August for catering purposes.

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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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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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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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 – [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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, [...]

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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 [...]

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