Our Research

Research at MAPrc is extraordinarily diverse. Our projects range from  neuroimaging techniques that are recognised around the world for the breakthrough insights they provide into brain structure and function in health and illness, to innovative new treatments to boost the effectiveness of conventional medications for major mental illnesses. Other research streams are grassroots initiatives looking at ways to make the delivery of community mental health service more efficient and addressing the mental health aspects of problem gambling.

Our approach reflects our commitment to ‘bench to bedside’ research. Results translate directly into everyday benefits for people with mental illnesses, carers and healthcare professionals.

All our activities are guided by our mission: to conduct world-class psychiatric research with respect, equality and understanding.

MAPrc research is divided into a number of streams listed below. For further information, please see the menu links on the right. 


Annual report 2014 1.26 MB

Therapeutic Brain Stimulation

The Therapeutic Brain Stimulation division focuses on using advanced neuroscience technology to investigate brain function and develop innovative treatments across a range of disorders. 

We use a range of advanced imaging techniques and novel treatments, including:

To find out more about our research and treatment tools see here.

Our research team is studying potential uses of these techniques in disorders such as:

To find out about current clinical research projects and investigative studies and how to be involved see our Treatment Studies and our Investigative Studies

Therapeutic Brain Stimulation division

Professor Paul Fitzgerald

Deputy Director
A/Prof Kate Hoy, Head Cognitive Therapeutics Program

Senior Research Fellow 
Dr Bernadette Fitzgibbon 

Division Co-ordinator
Dr Karyn Richardson      

Research Fellows / Post Doctoral Reserachers
Dr Richard Thomson 
Dr Neil Bailey              
Dr Robin Cash
Dr Manreena Kaur

Melanie Emonson (CTRP Co-ordinator)
Aron Hill
SungWook Chung

Research Registrars
Dr Leo Chen                   
Dr Odette Edelstein

Research Nurses
David Elliott 
Susan McQueen 
Lenore Wambeek                                                                                                                                                             
Linda Pearce

Research Assistants
Kirsten Gainsford
Laura Knox
Caley Sullivan
Megan Ross
Doctoral Students
Oscar Murphy (DPsych)
Hannah Coyle (DPsych)
Sin-Ki Ng (PhD)
Xianwei Che (PhD)
Shuxiang Tian (PhD)
Robert Cooper (PhD)

Honours Students



Research and Treatment Tools

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a technology which is an effective treatment for
depression and also showing substantial promise as a therapy for a range of other conditions.

TMS is a non-invasive treatment which works by using a magnetic field to stimulate nerve cells in superficial areas of the brain. A hand-held, plastic-coated coil is placed close to the scalp of the person receiving TMS treatment. An electrical current passes through the coil, creating a magnetic field that stimulates electrical activity in the nerve tissue below the coil.

The effect of the stimulation varies with the frequency and intensity of stimulation and the orientation of the stimulation coil. TMS stimulation has been shown to have effects on mood, motor (control of movement) and cognitive (thinking and planning) functioning.

As well as a therapeutic tool,TMS can be used as a method to investigate brain function.


TMS as a treatment method

Studies have been evaluating the use of TMS in the treatment of patients with depression for over 15 years. At MAPrc we have been at the centre of a worldwide research effort focused on evaluating and more recently improving the use of TMS treatment for patients with depression. We have conducted an extensive series of clinical trials that have contributed to robustly demonstrating that TMS is an effective treatment. We have also conducted extensive research evaluating the use of potentially new and improved forms of TMS treatment.

Because it is a non-invasive therapy that is carried out while the person receiving it is awake and alert, TMS has important advantages over older therapies such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). These include: low risk of side-effects or serious complications, avoidance of the need for anaesthesia and its associated risks, lower costs and less inconvenience to the patient, avoidance of the stigma that ECT sometimes carries, and the fact that TMS is suitable for use in medically unwell people who may not be able to tolerate certain medications or ECT.

TMS is now becoming a widely used treatment for depression around the world. There are clinical programs providing TMS treatment globally, including the US, and its place in clinical practice is gradually being refined.

In addition to using TMS in depression, studies are now exploring its use in other disorders including bipolar disorder, autism, Asperger's disorder and substance abuse. We have conducted, and continue to conduct innovative studies like these, including in depression, autism, schizophrenia, fibromyalgia and obsessive compulsive disorder. You can find more information about this research on the Psychiatric Neurotechnology: current projects page                          

Contact details
Email: tms-enquiry@monash.edu
Phone: 9076 8538


TMS as a probe of brain function 

TMS is widely utilised as a technique in studying normal and abnormal brain activity. When TMS pulses are applied to the muscle area of the brain, a muscle response is produced, for example in the hand, which can be measured and characterised accurately. This allows researchers to study the function of the motor control system. When TMS pulses are applied to other brain regions, they can be used to interfere with or temporarily augment other brain activities allowing study of these brain functions.

Researchers have also combined TMS with brain imaging methods such as EEG and NIRS as a method of studying brain function in non-motor brain regions. When EEG is recorded during a TMS pulse, we can measure the brain's electrical response to the TMS pulse, which reflects the normal functioning of the brain being stimulated. In a similar way, the brain's vascular response to stimulation can be measured with NIRS.

Researchers within MAPrc have extensively used TMS-EEG and TMS-NIRS methods to study brain function and the response to TMS in healthy subjects and in a number of illness states including depression, schizophrenia and addiction.


Transcranial direct current stimulation

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a relatively new brain stimulation technique. It uses a very gentle electrical current (1-2 mA) to change the activity level of cells in specific areas of the brain. The low current is not enough to cause brain cell to fires, but it changes the environment around nerve cells in the area of the brain that is stimulated making them more or less likely to fire. 

Like TMS, tDCS is a non-invasive technique which does not require any anaesthetic and has minimal side-effects. It also has potential use as a way of investigating brain function but is mostly being explored in the possible treatment of conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy, stroke, Parkinson's disease and depression. Currently, it is being investigated as a treatment for depression in people whose symptoms have not been resolved with medication (treatment-resistant depression). 

Over recent years, researchers within MAPrc have conducted a careful series of studies demonstrating that tDCS has the potential to modulate and improve aspects of brain cognition, including learning and memory. These studies are ongoing and hopefully will lead to the development of tDCS methods as treatments for disorders with cognitive dysfunction such as schizophrenia, head injury and Alzheimer's disease.  You can find more information about this research on our current Treatment Studies and Investigative Studies.



Treatment Studies

The Therapeutic Brain Stimulation team is currently researching new treatments and conducting investigative studies for depression, bipolar, OCD, autism, schizophrenia, head injury and chronic pain. 

To read about our current research in these areas and to find out how to get involved, please see below. You can also view our Investigative Studies


Treatment Studies 

1. Accelerated TMS for depression

Aim: To see whether we can speed up the response to TMS. TMS response is usually slow, with a typical treatment course taking between four and six weeks. Over this time, patients are required to attend the hospital or clinic on a daily basis for a treatment that takes approximately 45 minutes. In this study we are investigating whether we can use a higher dose of treatment to get an accelerated treatment response, such that patient's symptoms improve in a much shorter period of time.

Participants: People with treatment-resistant depression  i.e. depression that has not adequately improved with antidepressant medications.

Project status: This project is currently underway.  

Contact details

Email: tms-enquiry@monash.edu

Phone: 9076 8538


2. DBS for treatment-resistant depression

Aim: To evaluate deep brain stimulation (DBS) in depression that has proved extremely resistant to standard treatments.

Methods: This study involves neurosurgical implantation of a neurostimulator in consenting patients who have severe depression that has proved extremely resistant to all less invasive antidepressant treatment options. 

Participants: As DBS is considered a treatment of last resort, only individuals who have trialled all less invasive antidepressant treatments and remained severely depressed can be considered for the procedure. This means having trialled multiple medications from all antidepressant drug classes, combinations of antidepressant medications, cognitive behavioural therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation and extensive electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Project status: This project is currently in progress.

Contact details:

Email: maprc-dbs@monash.edu

Phone: 9076 6564


3. TBS for the treatment of fibromyalgia

Aim: The purpose of this project is to investigate the use of a form of therapeutic brain stimulation called Theta Burst Stimulation (TBS), as a treatment for the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Participants: To be involved, participants must be aged between 18 and 75 years and have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Participation will involve attending MAPrc for 16 sessions over a four week period. Each treatment takes approximately 30 minutes. 

Project status: Recruitment underway.

Contact details

Ms. Freya Stockman

Email: freya.stockman@monash.edu

Phone: (03) 9076 9896

For further information:



4. Non-invasive brain stimulation in autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Aim: We are currently conducting a number of studies that investigate whether transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can be used to improve social and behavioural aspects of autism spectrum disorder.

Participants: Depending on the study, we are recruiting people aged between 14 and 40 who have a formal diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

Project status: Currently underway

Contact Details

A/Prof. Peter Enticott

Email: peter.enticott@deakin.edu.au

Phone: (03) 9244 5504


5. Alzheimer’s Study

Aim: To investiage whether Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) can improve the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. TMS is a painless, safe, and non-invasive means of stimulating nerve cells in the brain.

Participant's: Volunteers between 50 and 95 years of age with a diagnosis of mild to moderate Alzheimer's. Participation will involve attending the Alfred for a 2 week or 4 week period of daily (Monday-Friday) treatments followed by a  few follow up appointments (1-2hrs) up to 6 months post treatment. Each treatment appointment takes approximately 30 minutes. Participants will be provided compensation toward your travel and time costs.

Project Status: Currently underway

Contact Details

Ms Veronika Simic
Email: veronika.simic@monash.edu

Phone: 03 9076 6564

For more information:

- Download this flyer


Investigative Studies

Investigative studies are key to improving our understanding of the nature of mental health disorders and often require healthy controls in addition to patient populations as volunteers.  














Honours projects

Within the Therapeutic Brain Stimulation team at MAPrc, there are a range of potential honours projects available for 2017 and beyond. These will most likely involve the use of brain stimulation techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation or neuroscience tools such as EEG or neuroimaging.

These include studies focused on the following areas:

  • Using TMS to study the role of expectancy and anticipation in motor cortical excitability
  • The role of stimulation duration in working memory enhancement using tDCS
  • Using near infra red spectroscopy (NIRS) to investigate brain changes following Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Cortical Inihibiton, Dorsolateral Pre Frontal Cortex and Working Memory: Using TMS/EEG to establish a neurophsyiological marker of working memory 


Cognitive Therapeutics Research Program

The Cognitive Therapeutics Research Program is headed by Associate Professor Kate Hoy. The group's research is focused on the development of novel biological treatments for cognitive impairment in both psychiatric and neurological illnesses. Information about our current research studies are provided below.


Current Treatment Trials:


Investigating the use of brain stimulation to treat the cognitive symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer's

We are seeking volunteers between 50 and 95 years of age with a diagonsis of mild to moderate Alzheimer's. We are investigating whether a form of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation can improve the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's. Participation will involve visiting our research centre in Prahran for an initiial interview (2-3 hours), 21 treatments over a 6 week period (each lasting approximately 30 mintues), and two follow up interviews (2-3 hours each).  Participants will be provided compensation toward your travel and time costs.  If you think this sounds interesting and would like to know more please contact Melanie Emonson on (03) 9076 9864 or email tms-enquiry@monash.edu or click here for further details.


A longitudinal investigation of the neurophysiological changes related to cognitive performances and the effects of neuromodulation in Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

We are seeking adults aged 50 to 70 years who would like to help us to investigate the effects of non-invasive electrical brain stimulation on brain activity and cognition over time in people who meet criteria for Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). MCI refers to a decline in memory that does not impact on daily functioning. This study is a 3-year clinical trial. Transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) will be self-administered in the comfort of your own home over 3 years, following comprehensive training by a trained researcher. Participation will also involve attending the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre (MAPrc) located in Prahran for 7 times each year. Collectively, these visits will involve interviews, assessments, cognitive activities, questionnaires, as well as recording brain activity and collecting blood for genetic analysis. You will be offered yearly reports on the regular cognitive assessments that you undergo throughout the trial. If you would like to know more or are interested in participating, please contact Ms Freya Stockman via phone (03) 9076 9896 or email freya.stockman@monash.edu


Current Investigative Studies:


The relationship between cortical activity and cognitive function after head injury

We are seeking volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 to help us investigate the relationship between changes in brain activity and symptoms after a concussion. We are using a non-invasive type of brain stimulation to learn more about changes post-concussion and during recovery. Participation will involve visiting our research centre in Prahran for three research sessions.  The first session will occur within 1 month since your concussion and take approximately 3 hours. The following sessions will occur 3 and 6 months post-concussion and will take approximately 2 hours each. Together we will complete an interview, do some thinking tasks, take a recording of your brain waves and give you a short session of non-invasive brain stimulation. If you think this sounds interesting and would like to know more please contact Ms Hannah Coyle on (03) 9076 8649 or hannah.coyle@monash.edu 


Investigating the therapeutic potential of brain stimulation for apathy in Huntington's disease

Many people with Huntington’s disease (HD) experience problems with motivation, often referred to as “apathy”. There are currently no effective treatments for apathy in HD. We are conducting this study to investigate whether transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), a gentle non-invasive brain stimulation technique, can alter brain activity in a way that may be used to increase motivation in people with HD. We are seeking volunteers with and without HD who are aged between 18 and 65 to participate. Participants need to be able to attend MAPrc for 3 separate sessions lasting 2-3 hours. Each session involves 20 minutes of tACS, completion of a motivation task, and recording brain waves.  Participants will be provided reimbursement toward time and travel costs for each session. If you would like to discuss your eligibility to participate, please contact Marie-Claire Davis at marie-claire.davis@monash.edu.


Investigating EEG patterns in individuals with varying attentional abilities 

We are seeking individuals between the ages of 18 and 55 who either a) practice mindfulness, b) have a diagnosis of ADHD, or c) have no existing or previous history of neuropsychological or psychiatric illness. We are investigating weather there is a difference in brain activity among individuals with varying attentional abilities. Recruitment is expected to begin in early November-December. Participation will include a battery of neuropsychological tests (45 mins), followed by a screening of EEG. During EEG recordings, participants will complete a set of cognitive tasks which work on attention processes (approximately 60 minutes). Participants will be compensated for their time and travel costs. If you would like to participate inn this study please contact Andrea Marcu at Andrea.marcu@monash.edu 

Women's Mental Health

Mental illness has many gender-specific aspects that clinical research has not always addressed. For example, in conditions such as schizophrenia, the age of onset and pattern of symptoms commonly seen is different for women and men. Women and men may also respond differently to medications or other treatments. In addition, changes in the level of sex hormones such as estrogen are known to affect symptoms.

The Women’s Mental Health team is working on numerous aspects of women’s mental health, the experiences of women with mental illness and potential options for treatment. To find out more about current projects click here or for schizophrenia treatments for men and women click here. For information about our PTSD clinical trial, please click here.

One particular focus of our research is the role of the neuroendocrine system in mental illnesses, and specifically the use of female hormones to improve the results of treatment. We are conducting ground-breaking research into the use of estrogen to improve symptoms in schizophrenia and the use of selective brain estrogens in postmenopausal women. We are also exploring possible links between the oral contraceptive pill and depression.

Another important project is NRAMP, the National Register of Antipsychotic Medications in Pregnancy. This is the first register of its kind worldwide. NRAMP aims to create a database of information about the effects of antipsychotic medications taken during pregnancy and the postnatal period. More information about NRAMP is available here


Women’s Mental Health Research Division

Professor Jayashri Kulkarni
Deputy Director
Dr Caroline Gurvich

Research Manager
Emmy Gavrilidis

Consultant Psychiatrist
Dr Carolyn Breadon
Consultant Endocrinologist
Dr Caroline Thew
Research Medical Officer
Dr Abdul Rahman Hudaib
Psychiatry Registrar 
Dr Sarah Rotstein 

NH&MRC Early Career Research Fellow
Dr Gemma Sharp
Post Doctoral Researcher
Dr Natalie Thomas
Research Assistants
Iris Liang
Alisa Turbic
WMH Clinic Coordinator
Rachana Pattali
Educational Designer
Katrina McKie

Women's Mental Health: current projects

The Women's Mental Health Team coordinates a number of treatment and intervention trials focused on the gender differences in psychiatric care.



Double Blind Randomised Trial of Tibalone as an Adjunct to Standard Antidepressant Treatment for Relapsed and Persistent Depression in Peri- and Post-Menopausal Women

Click Here

The Alison Project: A randomised double-blind placebo controlled investigation of adjunctive memantine in the treatment of symptoms of complex trauma disorder (also known as borderline personality disorder)

Click Here

Estradiol as a Treatment for Women with Borderline Personality Disorder

Click Here

Bazedoxifene – A New Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator Treatment for Women with Schizophrenia

Click Here

Genital Self-Image and Body Image Concerns

Click Here

NRAMP - The National Register of Antipsychotic Medication in Pregnancy

Click Here



Double Blind Randomised Investigation of Tibalone as an Adjunct to Standard Antidepressant Treatment for Relapsed and Persistent Depression in Peri- and Post-Menopausal Women


The Alison Project: A randomised double-blind placebo controlled investigation of adjunctive memantine in the treatment of symptoms of complex trauma disorder (also known as borderline personality disorder)



Estradiol as a Treatment for Women with Borderline Personality Disorder


Estradiol as a Treatment for Women with Borderline Personality Disorder


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious and highly prevalent (5.9%) psychiatric disorder, affecting women more than men. BPD sufferers experience severe emotional instability, social and occupational dysfunction, and engage in chronic self-mutilation and suicidal behaviours, with associated high levels of mortality, morbidity, and health service use. BPD patients are a complex group that are challenging to treat. Current psychological treatments are expensive and difficult for BPD patients to access, and there is currently no clearly designated pharmacotherapy. Underpinned by psychosocial causes, childhood trauma is reported in most patients (>80%) and is linked to abnormalities in the development of the neuroendocrine axes. Significantly, cyclical fluctuations in ovarian hormones affect emotional and cognitive behaviours relevant to BPD. As such, this indicates the neuroendocrine system as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of BPD symptoms.


To determine whether estradiol is effective in treating symptoms of BPD, and specific symptom domains including emotional regulation, cognition, mood and quality of life, as well as biological markers.


Women aged between 18-43, who have a current diagnosis of BPD or experience symptoms consistent with BPD are invited to take part in this study.


This study is a 12-week randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trial that will be conducted at the Monash Alfred Psychiatry research centre. Participants will be randomly selected to receive daily either 1) transdermal estradiol 100mcg twice weekly patch, or 2) inactive placebo. Participants will touch base with their study coordinators every two weeks to monitor mood symptoms and adverse events.


Project status

If you are interested in learning more about this study please contact the team to register an expression of interest

For more information, please contact the Women’s Mental Health Division via email at maprc.wmhresearch@monash.edu


Bazedoxifene – A New Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator Treatment for Women with Schizophrenia

 Bazedoxifene – A New Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator Treatment for Women with Schizophrenia


Although more commonly associated with women, estrogen is also a naturally occurring hormone in the bodies of men, and is already used clinically to reverse bone loss, enhance cardiovascular function, and treat prostate cancer. However, increasing evidence points to the protective role of estrogen in the brain, and for its positive effects on the symptoms of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. However, adverse effects on breast and uterine tissue in females limit therapeutic use of estrogen in this population.

Bazedoxifene is a new hormone treatment that belongs to a group of medications called Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs). Bazedoxifene is thought to have positive estrogenic effects in the brain without affecting peripheral body tissues, thus offering a longer term treatment approach with potential mental health and cognitive benefits.


To compare the efficacy of adjunctive bazedoxifene against adjunctive placebo in treating psychosis symptoms and improving cognition in women with schizophrenia.


Women aged between 18-45, who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, and are not currently using any hormonal therapy are invited to take part in this study.


This study is a 12-week randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trial that will be conducted at two sites in Melbourne - the lead site is the Monash Alfred Psychiatry research centre and a second site is the Monash Medical Centre. Participants will be randomly selected to receive daily either 1) 40mg bazedoxifene, or 2) inactive placebo. Participants will touch base with their study coordinators every two weeks to monitor psychotic and mood symptoms, and blood samples will be collected at three time-points during the study. The occurrence of any unwanted side effects will also be monitored.

Project status

If you are interested in learning more about this study please contact the team to register an expression of interest

For more information, please contact the Women’s Mental Health Division via email at maprc.wmhresearch@monash.edu


Genital Self-Image and Body Image Concerns

Genital Self-Image and Body Image Concerns

Over the last 10 to 15 years, we have seen a rapid increase in the number of adolescent and adult women requesting cosmetic genital surgery. Professional medical organisations throughout the Western world have expressed serious concerns about this trend. As the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists state, cosmetic genital surgery is not medically indicated, and long term safety and effectiveness data are lacking. Potential complications include infection, altered sensation, dyspareunia, adhesions, and scarring.

Research has shown the primary motivation for these surgeries is aesthetic concern. Our research has focused on investigating the psychological and sociocultural factors underpinning this increase in genital appearance dissatisfaction in women. We firstly examined these factors in adult women, but have subsequently shifted our attention to adolescent girls as this is usually the period when girls first start to develop these concerns. We are also in the process of pilot testing a therapeutic mobile app, based on cognitive behavioural therapy principles, which aims to alleviate women’s genital appearance concerns. We hope that this app will provide an alternative to unproven cosmetic genital surgery and potentially be disseminated nationally and internationally. 


For more information, please contact Dr Gemma Sharp via email at gemma.sharp@monash.edu or by phone on (03) 9076 5167

NRAMP - The National Register of Antipsychotic Medication in Pregnancy


Many women throughout Australia and around the world are prescribed antipsychotic medication to treat mental illness. However, there is very little information available about the potential effect of these medications on mother and baby during pregnancy and after delivery.

The National Register of Antipsychotic Medication in Pregnancy (NRAMP) is designed to address this gap in knowledge by collecting information about women who are taking antipsychotic medication and who are pregnant or have had a baby in the last twelve months. It is hoped that this information will ultimately help to improve the experience of pregnancy and birth for women with mental illness, and to contribute to better health and wellbeing for these women and their babies.

We are currently recruiting participants to the study. We would be pleased to hear from women who are pregnant or have had a baby in the last twelve months and are taking antipsychotic medication. If you are interested in taking part in the study, please contact Ms Alisa Turbic (Research Assistant); Tel: + 61 3 9076 6591; Email: maprc-nramp@monash.edu


NRAMP also has information and resources for healthcare professionals.

If you are already registered for access to the NRAMP Healthcare Professionals Portal, please log in from the panel on the right.

If you would like to register for access, please contact: 

Ms Alisa Turbic (Research Assistant); Tel: + 61 3 9076 6591; Email: maprc-nramp@monash.edu 

With the following information:

  • Name
  • Role and Organisation 
  • Email address
  • Telephone number
  • Clinical Registration Number or Provider Number


Service Related Research

 Service Related Research focuses on the day-to-day problems managed by government funded mental health services. The great majority of this research is currently undertaken in collaboration with the Alfred Hospital Department of Psychiatry.

Such research includes, but is not limited to: observational studies designed to better characterise and describe a particular issue; evaluation studies designed to measure current practice against clinical and/or financial benchmarks; and interventional studies, trialling novel approaches in diagnosis and/or treatment.

 The key focus of Service Related Research at APRC is on the ‘real world’ problems confronted by service managers in public mental health services and by clinicians working at the coal-face.


You watch an overview of the team's work here.


Service Related Research team

Team Leader

A/Professor Simon Stafrace

Ms Sandra Keppich-Arnold


Dr Stuart Lee




Service Related Research: current projects

1. Understanding interpersonal hostile-dominance and its role in aggressive behaviour in psychiatry inpatients

This project is being undertaken by MAPrc in collaboration with the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Monash University. The study is being conducted at the Alfred Hospital.

Aggressive behaviour by patients admitted to psychiatric hospitals occurs frequently and causes problems for patients and staff. Considerable research has explored the various factors that appear to contribute to aggression in psychiatric hospitals. Historically, this research has focussed on the clinical characteristics of aggressive patients, although environmental factors and interactional aspects of aggression have recently been emphasised.

There is some evidence to suggest that interpersonal style, which refers to the characteristic ways in which a person manages their relationships with others and is a significant feature of personality, and levels of perceived coercion, may have an effect on the risk of violent and aggressive behaviour during hospitalisation.

The project aims to:

* to explore the relationship over time between interpersonal style, psychiatric symptoms and aggression in hospitalised psychiatric inpatients,

* to delineate the psychological characteristics of patients with a hostile-dominant interpersonal style,

* to examine whether a history of early childhood abuse predicts hostile-dominance.


A total of 200 adult acute psychiatric patients have been recruited from the inpatient unit at the Alfred Hospital.


Anyone newly admitted to the acute inpatient psychiatry services at The Alfred over a specific period were eligible for inclusion. Participants who consented to take part in the study were asked to spend approximately 60 minutes with a research assistant to discuss their experience of being admitted to hospital. This step involved completion of the Impact Message Inventory-Circumplex, Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, Life History of Aggression Questionnaire, State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Participants were also asked to give permission for the research assistant to have access to their Alfred Psychiatry file to check for incidents of aggression and behaviours during their admissions.

Project status

Data collection has completed and publications detailing project findings are currently being prepared.


Dr Michael Daffern

Dr Yitzchak Hollander

Tegan Podubinski

Dr Stuart Lee

2. The impact of psychosocial factors on psychological distress, quality of life and survival of patients undergoing haematopoietic stem cell transplantation

This project is being undertaken by MAPrc in collaboration with the Cabrini Monash Psycho-oncology Unit and staff from Alfred Health. The study is being conducted at the Alfred Hospital.

Stem cell transplantation is often the last course of treatment for patients with haematological cancer who have experienced a relapse or previously unsuccessful treatment attempts. It is often experienced as a very difficult treatment with a number of physical side effects, and many patients experiencing this treatment have been found to experience high levels of psychological distress that impacts on quality of life and capacity to follow treatment recommendations. 

While much is known about the physical and medical predictors of treatment success, less is known about the level of distress and when distress is experienced, as well as how social, medical and other coping approaches help or worsen the experience of distress over time. One particular dispositional factor that is being explored in this study is Sense of Coherence which captures the extent to which people view a difficult situation as comprehensible, manageable and meaningful.

The project aims to:

* to examine the level of emotional distress and quality of life of patients immediately before HSCT, 2-3 weeks post-transplant and 3 months post-transplant,

* to determine if clinical risk factors, demographic factors and Sense of Coherence predicts psychosocial distress in patients undergoing HSCT,

* to determine retrospectively whether various demographic factors, clinical indicators, coping styles and psychological distress experienced pre-transplant predicted survival at 12 months post-transplant.


Two separate studies have been conducted. Study 1 collected data from the hospital files of 122 people who underwent a stem cell transplant at The Alfred hospital between 20052011. Study 2 which began in 2012, directly collected information from 60 people directly who were about to undergo a stem cell transplant at The Alfred hospital as a treatment for a haematological cancer.


For Study 1, measures completed with patients as part of the pre-transplant preparation were collected assessing aspects of cancer coping response, quality of life, and distress. For Study 2, participants were invited to complete a set of questionnaires at three timepoints: immediately prior to the transplant, 2-3 weeks after the transplant (while usually still in hospital) and at 3 months after the transplant. Included measures assessed distress, sense of coherence, quality of life and severity of trauma symptoms related to the transplant experience. 

Project status

Data collection has completed for both studies and publications are currently being prepared.


Dr Stuart Lee

Brindha Pillay

Lynda Katona

Sue De Bono 

Dr Sue Burney

Dr Sharon Avery

3. Piloting the effectiveness of physical health nurses in community based mental health services

This project is being undertaken by MAPrc in collaboration with the Alfred Psychiatry and Inner South Community Health Service.

Previous research has shown that in comparison to people in the general population, people with a severe mental illness die on average 25 years earlier. A particular reason for this is that people with a severe mental illness have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, obesity and hypertension, and reduced engagement with health services.

A pilot study has been implemented within a community team of Alfred Psychiatry and Inner South Community Health Service, which was compared to usual care, to appoint a physical health nurse to lead members of their clinical team in monitoring and establishing plans to address identified physical health difficulties for their clients.

The project aims to:

* Measure whether a physical health intervention led by a physical health nurse for case managed community mental health consumers produces greater improvements in physical health indicators compared to treatment as usual.

* Explore how staff encountering the physical health nurse and receiving provided training about physical illness in people with a severe mental illness, experienced these initiatives.


People who are case managed by Alfred Psychiatry and Inner South Community Health Service and have a Client Physical Health Guide completed with their case manager are eligible to participate in this study.


Participants who are case managed by a clinician who has access to a physical health nurse will be compared with participants whose case manager does not have access to the physical health nurse. Their scores on the Client Physical Health Guide will be compared between the initial assessment and 6 month follow-up to determine whether there has been a greater improvement in health indicators with the intervention condition. Case managers employed by both services will also be invited to complete a questionnaire to explore their experience of the initiative.

Project status

Baseline completion of Client Physical Health Guides has completed and follow-up assessment will shortly commence. The staff experience questionnaire is also currently being finalised.


Dr Stuart Lee

Troy Macris

Susanne Birks

Kent Burgess

Jessica Price

Narelle Heeney

Lee Kelleher

David Pritchard

Affiliated Research

MAPrc has participated in a number of affiliated research programs. For further information, please see the menu on the right.

Aged Psychiatry

The Research Unit within Caulfield Aged Psychiatry has experienced its busiest year yet. This is most encouraging, having only commenced work in 2009.

Our main research activities for the year have involved ongoing work on two large, industry-funded clinical trials examining the safety and efficacy of potential disease-modifying concepts in Alzheimer’s disease. Both are sponsored by eli Lilly, and are known as the LZAN and LZAO studies resectively.
A further industry-sponsored Alzheimer’s trial, sponsored by Velacor Therapeutics, commenced in January 2010, with a study sponsored by Prana Biotechnology also due to start in March 2012. The research unit has now established itself as a sought-after site by industry partners, and we receive numerous expressions of interest from big pharmaceutical companies in relation to conducting further research with us.
Recently Janssen Pharmaceuticals have agreed to fund a 50-patient, Melbourne-based study into the effects of the injectable antipsychotic Invega Sustenna on elderly patients with schizophrenia. This is a Caulfield-based initiative and is proposed to involve four other Melbourne-based sites over a two-year period.

Aged Psychiatry team

Team Leader
Dr Andrew Gleason FRANZCP
Clinical Trials Manager
Dr Mary Panjari
Clinical trials Coordinator 

Maree Mastwyk RN RPN
Ms Sue Dal Sasso 
Research Nurse
Ms Jenny Bortoli RN
Ms Jenny Nam 

Aged Psychiatry: current projects

Protocol H8A-MC-LZAN - Effect of Passive Immunisation on the Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease: LY2062430 versus Placebo (Lilly) – concludes June 2012

Protocol H8A-MC-LZAO - Effect of Passive Immunisation on the Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease: LY2062430 versus Placebo. An Open-Label Extension Study (Lilly) – concludes December 2013

A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial to Evaluate the Safety, Tolerability and the Biological and Cognitive Effects of VEL015 (Sodium Selenate) in Patients with Mild to Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease – a Pilot Study (Velacor Therapeutics) – in progress, recruiting

A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to assess the safety and tolerability of PBT2, and its effect on amyloid deposition in the brains of patients with prodromal or mild Alzheimer’s disease. (Prana Biotechnology) – commencing March 2012

Neuropsychological Characteristics of Patients Referred With Senile Squalor (self-funded; in progress)

Psychogeriatric nursing homes in Victoria: a comparison of models of care (self-funded; in progress)

Effect on the family carer post-institutionalisation of the patient with dementia (self-funded; awaiting HREC approval)

Effects of regular supervision upon paid professional carers within a nursing home environment (self-funded; awaiting HREC approval)

Effects of an educational programme targeting general practitioners (regarding the management of behaviours of concern) on psychotropic prescribing and adverse outcomes in nursing homes: a pilot study (self-funded; in protocol development)

Efficacy and safety of paliperidone long-acting injection in elderly people with schizophrenia (proposed, involving 5 local sites, external funding secured, in protocol development)

A pilot study to evaluate the use of mobile computing within a community aged psychiatry service (internally funded, in protocol development)


Child and Adolescent Mental Health

Alfred Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) offers mental health care to infants, children and youths and their families or carers.  People who live in the cities of Port Phillip, Stonnington, Glen Eira, Bayside and Ports of Kingston are eligible to use Alfred CAMHS.

We are actively looking to increase the amount and quality of research that we are doing and we have a particular interest in practice-based evidence.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health team

Chief Investigator/Team Leader   
Professor Jayashri Kulkarni

Louise Newman
Paul Denborough

Child and Adolescent Mental Health: current projects

1. Intervening in child trauma

The purpose of this study is to improve understanding of child trauma and to assess an evidence-based intervention

Children and youth from Israel and Australia

Project status   
This project is due to commence soon

Professor Jayashri Kulkarni
Louise Newman
Paul Denborough

2. Theory of mind, emotion recognition and temperament: association with social functioning in children and adolescents.

The aim of this project is to look at factors that might be linked with the difficulties some young people have in getting along with others

Participants and methods
Young people, completing a variety of questionnaires

Project status   
This project is currently ongoing.

Emma Newton
Paul Denborough

3. Client-directed, outcome-informed practice pilot

The purpose of this project is to pilot the introduction of an effectiveness measure of the clinical work of the Alfred Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service

The project involves 8 clinicians and 50 families

Clinician and carer satisfaction with the CDOI practice is being measured.

Project status
The pilot commenced in June 2009 and is currently under way.

Rachel Barbara-May
Paul Denborough
Stuart Lee

4. Sharing reports with families

This project aims to improve collaborative practice at the CAMHS and to improve the usefulness of assessment reports.

The Middle South team

Information is collected via a telephone survey of clients and a staff satisfaction survey.

This project is in the planning stages.

Dr Campbell Thorpe
Michelle Knuckey

5. How parents inform children about autism

The purpose of this project is to find out baseline information about how and at what age parents inform their children about autism spectrum disorder.

20 families who came to Alfred CAMHS through the DAP Program.

Families that agree to participate will be interviewed and baseline data will be collected.

This study is currently in preparation.

Mary Fleming
Jenny Harrison

6. Satisfaction survey of autism assessment service

The study sets out to survey past families to measure satisfaction and identify areas for program improvement.

55 clients of the service.

The 55 clients were sent a 31-item questionnaire to complete.

Complete in 2009

Roger Pelletier

7. Use of interpretation in children under 3 years old

This study examined what interventions are effective when working psychotherapeutically with 2 years olds.

Literature review.

Completed in 2009

Rosalie Birkin

8. Children of mentally ill patients

The purpose of the project is to examine the engagement and needs of children of clients attending Adult Psychiatry.

Information is collected via file audit

This study is currently ongoing

Sharon Sutherland

Medicine of the Mind

The Medicine of the Mind team is responsible for teaching psychiatry, psychology and psychological medicine. Its mission is ‘to deliver a seamless education in psychiatry and related disciplines across the breadth of the undergraduate medical course’.

Specifically, this involves: teaching into the Years 1 and 2 of the MBBS course via the Human Lifespan Development and Health and Human Behaviour subjects as well as a Year 1 elective; directing students’ clinical placement for Psychiatry  during Year 4; and a Year 5 selective subject. Medicine of the Mind also teaches students in the Radiography, Dietetics and Medical Science courses.

Over the past twelve months, Medicine of the Mind has remodelled several aspects of its teaching in the undergraduate medical course in Years 1, 4 and 5, as well as in Year 1 of the Radiography course.

The review and remodelling process aims to achieve several things: to research new and vibrant models for teaching psychiatry; to encourage, recruit and reward vibrant teachers; to use staff and materials more efficiently; and to smooth the process by which students acquire the psychology and psychiatry knowledge they will need to be doctors.

Coordinating all teaching through one office helps eliminate duplication and gaps in teaching, ensures consistency in content and facilitates sharing of resources such as staff, materials, ideas, research, forums and simulations.

Students see the same tutors across the years, which provides them with a consistent reference person and fosters development of personal relationships, mentoring and modelling of professional development. Medicine of the Mind also involves psychiatry registrars in its teaching program to foster peer learning. 


Medicine of the Mind team

Director, Undergraduate Medical Education
Prof Rob Selzer

Deputy Director
Dr Revi Nair

Anne Crawford


Medicine of the Mind has introduced a number of innovations and continues to identify opportunities to improve students’ learning experience.


1. Clinical placement
In response to students’ feedback, the Year 4 clinical placement has been changed from a split 18-week semester alternating psychiatry and general practice to a continuous 9-week program that emphasises clinically based learning and teaching. Students are embedded in a team and expected to play an active role. All clinical staff and students are provided with clear guidelines about the students’ roles and responsibilities.

Instead of traditional case-study-based workshops, PEERLS (Professionalism, Ethics, Evidence-base, Roles, Legal, Systemic) has been developed to help students integrate clinical experiences with theory. PEERLS sessions are patient-based, but held away from the bedside. They are led by a clinician /expert, and involve the tutor sharing his/her knowledge and experience.

3. Resources
So far, Medicine of the Mind has produced a book for students that provides an introductory overview to psychiatry and also a video journal.


Medicine of the Mind seeks to make maximum use of technology to improve teaching and maximise opportunities for students.

1. Web-based video instructions for PEERLS tutors
These provide an easily accessible guide for PEERLS session tutors.

2. COAT – Computerised OSCE Assessment Tool
This system simplifies and speeds up the process of collecting and posting results of students’ practical OSCE (Observed Structured Clinical Evaluation) exams.

3. TICLE – Texting to Improve the Clinical Learning Experience
By making better use of text messaging, students can be advised of last-minute schedule changes, interesting clinical cases and events. This helps avoid delays, bottlenecks and missed learning opportunities.

4. Exam database
A database of past questions by topic, difficulty, etc facilitates the preparation of examinations.


Participate in a Research Study

MAPrc researchers regularly seek people who have experience with mental illness, as well as those who do not, for participation in research projects and treatment trials. 

See our Treatment Trials page for information about current projects requiring research. We are also always in need of healthy volunteers to act as 'control' participants. For more information see the MAPrc recruitment drive flyer below.

What is involved in participation will depend on what the research project is, but may include:

Any personal information provided and the record of participation are treated as private health information and kept confidential.

All MAPrc studies have been approved, and are governed by, the Alfred Hospital Ethics Committee.

If you would like to forward a general expression of interest in participating in any of our research projects, please contact our centre on:

Phone: +61 3 9076 6564

Fax: +61 3 9076 6588

E-mail: maprc@monash.edu

MAPrc recruitment drive flyer.pdf292.06 KB