Behavioural MedicineThis innovation hub looks at the way in which mind and body interact across childhood, adolescence and young adult life. This includes chronic and life limiting illnesses - endocrine, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and autoimmune - and the role of music and mindfulness in promoting emotional security and social connection.
Research focus areas
Chronic and life-limiting illness
Promoting socio-emotional adjustment to illness diagnosis and treatment in children and young people
Brain and gut
The interactions between the brain and the digestive system have been recognised for centuries. A large number of papers have documented changes to the brain and its signalling system as a result of external and internal gut-related stressors. Studies have also linked chronic peripheral inflammation to the brain-gut axis (i.e. a bi-directional communication system between the gut and the central nervous system), showing that inflammation changes the brain’s neuroplasticity. These interrelations are now implicated in mediating the effects of psychosocial stressors on chronic gastroinestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome. The Brain-Gut program investigates the links between stress and disease activity in gastrointestinal conditions and tests biopsychosocial interventions to manage these chronic conditions.
Mind and heart
Cardiovascular medicine recognises the role of psychosocial stress and mental health in the development and prognosis of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The proposed underlying pathways being both direct, inducing physiological change that can negatively impact the integrity of the cardiovascular system, and indirect, through the adoption of health risk behaviours. The Mood and Heart program investigates the role of psychosocial stress and mental health in the pathogenesis for cardiovascular disease (CVD), with the aim of identifying novel pathways linking mind and heart and developing biopsychosocial interventions that target these pathways.
Mood and mindfulness
The Mood and Mindfulness group is interested in understanding the impact of mind/body practices such as relaxation, yoga, and mindfulness on a range of psychological health outcomes, including stress, anxiety, mood and depression.
Mindful Choices for Parents of Children with ADHD
ADHD is the most common mental health disorder in Australia. In childhood, the condition adversely impacts patients and their families, commonly resulting in parental stress and dysfunctional parenting, which further escalate the child’s symptoms. Mindful parenting may ameliorate parental stress and poor parent-child relationships, and ultimately reduce the child’s symptoms. The aim of this project is to develop a mindful parenting intervention, Mindful Choices, in collaboration with parents of children with ADHD aged 5-12 years and to test the feasibility and acceptability of this intervention.
Neural and psychophysiological aspects of brief mindfulness, yoga nidra and relaxation
In this randomized experiment, we are testing whether a 30 minute session of mindfulness versus yoga nidra is associated with different outcomes (including brain states, psychophysiological functioning, emotion regulation and self-reported psychological stress) compared to relaxation and a passive control group in stressed young women.
Mood and music
HUSH brings together leading Australian musicians to support children and adolescents living with chronic and life threatening illnesses. The initiative has raised millions of dollars for research over the past 15 years and is led by Dr Cathy Crock AO who is a paediatric oncologist based at the RCH.
The Psycho-Oncology program is interested in understanding how cancer patients experiences and interactions with the health care system and supportive care services influence their health and psychological outcomes.
Diabetes is a family of conditions characterised by insulin deficiency and impaired glucose metabolism. Depending on the specific condition diagnosed (e.g. type 1, type 2, gestational), people need to manage their glucose levels with medications (e.g. tablets, insulin) and/or lifestyle changes. There are many ways in which psychology and behaviour play an important role in the health and quality of life of people living with diabetes. The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes leads and collaborates on a wide variety of research projects designed to improve support for and outcomes among people with diabetes and their families. For example:
- the role of beliefs, attitudes and emotions in diabetes self-management and outcomes
- emotional health: monitoring and reducing diabetes-specific distress and depressive symptoms
- expectations and experiences of new treatments, insulin delivery and monitoring technologies: how people use them and how they affect quality of life
- prevention of recurrent severe hypoglycaemia, and understanding its impact on diabetes self-management and quality of life
- prevention of complications (e.g. vision loss) and promoting uptake of screening for complications
- social stigma surrounding diabetes: understanding perceived and experienced stigma, and reducing its impact
- the language used in communications with and about people with diabetes
- the role and reach of self-management education and peer support programs/services
- key stages and transitions in the lives of people with diabetes, e.g. adolescence, young adulthood, pregnancy, older age