Neurodevelopmental disorders affect key psychological processes such as emotion, learning ability, self-control and memory that unfold as an individual grows.
In the School of Psychology, the neurodevelopmental disorders research group aims to address three key areas of these disorders; conceptualisation, diagnostics, and practice. By engaging in cutting-edge research into the causes, mechanisms, course, recognition and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders, the group aims to translate these research findings into clinical practice to improve recognition, diagnosis and treatment outcomes.
Peter Enticott is a Professor of Psychology (Cognitive Neuroscience) in the School of Psychology at the Melbourne Burwood Campus.
Peter is the head of the Cognitive Neuroscience Unit where he leads a team of 30 researchers interested in the neuroscience of autism spectrum disorders (including autism and Asperger's syndrome). His unit uses non-invasive brain stimulation techniques such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), as well as electrophysiology (EEG, EMG), neuroimaging (MRI, PET), eye tracking, and many other advanced neuroscience techniques to help learn how the brain functions differently for people with autism. His goal is to lessen the symptoms of autism and eventually to find the first medical treatment for this lifelong, currently untreatable disorder. Peter is looking forward to running an extremely large new study on autism, where he will utilise his neuroscience techniques on a sample of hundreds of people.
Peter did his PhD in Forensic Neuropsychology at Monash in 2006 before working at the Alfred Hospital where he established a program of research based on the neuroscience of autism. Over his career, Peter has published over 50 peer-reviewed papers and been awarded over $2.7M in competitive grant funding.
In all his works, Peter aims to provide leadership. He wishes to develop the researchers at the Cognitive Neuroscience Unit and to grow the unit's reputation with research excellence that leads to high impact translational work, work that makes a real difference to people suffering from autism spectrum disorders.
Head of School
School of Psychology
Melbourne Burwood Campus
Professor Nicole Rinehart is a Senior Researcher for the School of Psychology in the Faculty of Health at Deakin's Melbourne Burwood Campus. She currently supervises a large group of PhD and Clinical Doctoral Students.
The up-and-coming Deakin Child Study Centre is Nicole's brainchild. The Centre began as a simple start-up but has been developing links and attracting research fellows since day one, and is soon to start working collaboratively with Irabina Childhood Autism Services. Nicole hopes the partnership will form a community that helps to improve both diagnosis and evidence-based treatment for children with autism.
Nicole completed her PhD in 2001 in Experimental Neuropsychology before coming to Deakin to launch the Centre. Throughout her education and career Nicole has maintained a constant practice as a Clinical Psychologist, which she considers vital for real-world application of book-learned skills. Nicole engages with the community through consultation work at the Melbourne Childrens Clinic and with regular attendance at local schools.
Nicole has been prolific over her career, publishing over 70 journal articles and book chapters on autism, Asperger's disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Her involvement in research grants has led to almost 5 million dollars of funding for neurodevelopmental disorders. Previously Nicole has used gait analysis to improve early diagnosis of children with autism and Asperger's disorder. Currently her team are awaiting funding for an exciting new program on sleeping soundly with autism.
In all her work, but especially the Deakin Child Study Centre, Nicole emphasizes research that makes a real difference. She hopes the Centre will attract the best possible students and research fellows to Deakin, and that this will lead to better diagnosis and treatment for children with autism.
Associate Professor Linda Byrne is an active researcher in the School of Psychology at Deakin's Burwood campus and has worked at Deakin since 2006. She is a registered psychologist with a Masters degree in Clinical Neuropsychology and a PhD in Cognitive Neuropsychology.
Linda is an academic member of the Clinical College of Neuropsychologists. She has worked across a wide range of clinical and research settings examining cognitive function and dysfunction over the lifespan. In addition she trains intern psychologists in Psychological Assessment methods. Her major area of research is in the understanding and remediation of neuro- and social cognitive deficits in clinical disorders including ADHD, schizophrenia (and other psychotic disorders), and neurodegenerative disorders.
She has published two book chapters and a number of journal articles in the area of cognition in neuropsychiatric disorders. Her work also involves ongoing collaboration with the Shanghai Mental Health Centre in China and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota.
More recently, Dr Byrne's research has been focusing on novel mechanisms that may protect or prevent people from later cognitive decline, or even enhance their current capabilities, such as using supplementation for iron deficiency. She frequently presents her research at the national and international level and provides research and training workshops on psychological assessment.
Dr Mark Stokes is an Associate Professor at the Burwood campus where he’s been with Deakin since 2002. Mark specialises in autism, specifically autism and sexuality, autism and female profile, autism and education, and autism in adults.
Over the past ten years, Mark has been helping develop an assessment tool to evaluate appropriate and inappropriate behaviours for those with intellectual disabilities – not just those with autism – so as to help them towards developing a successful relationship. In concord with three other research groups from Ireland, The Netherlands and Italy, Mark has also been working on a sexuality scale to gather data on the differences experienced by women with autism.
In a current PhD project, Mark is involved in large scale analysis and review of educational interventions around autism. Specifically evaluating a motor skills program in a specialised autism primary school. This has established that motor skills improve social skills, and this knowledge, combined with training of early childcare and kindergarten providers will directly improve the socialisation of children with autism.
As a past president of Kidsafe Australia, and prior head of the injury prevention unit at Monash, Mark has a long history of helping provide the capacity for people to flourish in safe and positive environments.
Associate Professor Jarrad Lum lectures and researches in neuropsychology at the Burwood campus. His particular interest is in how different memory systems in the brain help us learn and process language. One area of this research focuses on individuals with “specific language impairment”. Individuals with specific language impairment have language problems even though there is no clear cause. By understanding how the brain processes language it is hoped we will be in a better position to help these individuals.
To study memory and language Jarrad uses brain stimulation to modulate different parts of the brain using transcranial direct current stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation. He also uses MRI to look at which parts of the brain are active during memory and language processing. Having these two technologies working in tandem then gives a good idea of what specific parts of the brain are responsible for language and memory usage.
This work is all the more important because language impairment is something that is widespread in society with 7-10% of the population impacted. Especially problematic is that children with language impairment will often also perform poorly in school and suffer from social or other problems. Despite the large scope, diagnosis is difficult, as it’s a disability that many people don’t know about. Currently there’s no single explanation as to the causes, but using a range of different technologies to study memory and language Jarrad is hoping to improve diagnosis and support.
His past work has had good results, including research he did in conjunction with the University of Manchester. Jarrad was part of one of the first groups to document procedural memory problems in children with language impairment problems.
Ian Fuelscher is a Lecturer at the Deakin Burwood campus where he is researching motor development in typically and atypically developed populations. Specifically he is interested in looking at how motor development is played out in people who have difficulties with their motor skills.
Motor difficulties affect between 5% - 6% of the population, which is a huge proportion, especially considering it has largely been misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all – instead dismissed simply by saying someone is “clumsy”. Ian’s research is in motor difficulties, or ‘developmental co-ordination disorder’ as it relates to people without significant learning difficulties or diagnosed mental impairment. Those affected not only have difficulty with everyday movements, but experience psychosocial issues which can range from bullying to low confidence and self-esteem.
For his PhD Ian looked at the full developmental spectrum – children from 6 to adulthood. Currently he is working with adults and looking at the neural basis of motor skills with the aim of improving our understanding of the relationship between underlying neural mechanisms and motor development.
Motor imagery – the act of representing action mentally – has been used by people in many different areas of sports or competitions, and Ian’s research has shown that this is important for many motor functions that people acquire across their development. Using MRI and TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) and looking at the issue from both a behavioural perspective and from a neural perspective, Ian hopes to use cutting-edge technology to get an idea of what the underlying neural mechanisms are for motor development and use this knowledge to support children and adults who experience motor difficulties.
Dr. Christian Hyde is a Senior Lecturer for the School of Psychology, in the Faculty of Health, at Deakin's Melbourne Burwood Campus.
Christian is a passionate teacher and researcher, currently working with the Cognitive Neuroscience Unit (CNU), headed by Professor Peter Enticott. He is interested in neuro-developmental disabilities in children and hopes that by using cutting-edge neuroscience techniques such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation the CNU will help identify the processing deficits involved in cerebral palsy.
Christian has been lecturing fulltime since 2008. He completed his PhD at RMIT and has since gone on to work at numerous universities, lecturing in both Research Methods and Statistics and Cognitive Psychology. Christian has worked at Deakin for 2 years now, and is passionate about creating a student-centred learning environment that is accessible to all.
Dr Mark Rogers is a lecturer in the Cognitive Neuroscience Unit at Deakin Burwood. He specialises in using transcranial magnetic stimulation, and near-infrared spectroscopy. TMS is a noninvasive method used to stimulate small regions of the brain, and through this Mark hopes to gain a greater understanding of the role of functional brain abnormalities in depression and the impact of certain brain injuries, such as sports concussions.
Prior to starting at Deakin in 2008, Mark was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Tokyo. This recognition came from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, for his work in neuropsychiatry. Other past awards Mark has received include the Neil Hamilton Fellowship from the NHMRC in 2003, and a High Commendation in the Premier’s Award for Medical Research in 2002.
His current research is in several different areas of TMS and potential TMS applications. This includes measuring brain response to TMS and predicting response to rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation). With this knowledge Mark hopes to improve predictions for patient response to rTMS, especially those with depression for whom rTMS is a treatment. There are also novel forms of TMS that could be possible alternatives, and Mark is exploring the clinical applications of these, including the introduction of I-wave TMS.
Hannah Bereznicki is a Lecturer and PhD Candidate in the School of Psychology based at Deakin's Geelong Campus. Her passion for the field is evident based not only from past awards but continued glowing reports from students.
Hannah is currently conducting research in the area of neuromodulation through the Cognitive Neuroscience Unit. Understood as the manipulation of neural excitability, her PhD focusses on how different brain stimulation techniques affect the brain and can be used in future research.
As a past Deakin student herself, Hannah teaches with an enthusiasm for learning based on implicit permission to be excited by the subject. This supportive process crafts a mutually beneficial environment, one that also emphasises the relevance and links between what students are being taught, and how this relates to the world around them.
It is this positive approach which has led to innovations and developments to the course structure, which has been of such high quality as to result in several awards, both within Deakin and on a national level. 2013 saw Hannah being awarded twice, once for the excellence of her contribution to learning and teaching in the faculty of health, and the second where collaboration with Ms Sharon Horwood and Dr Wendy Sutherland-Smith resulted in receiving the WJC Banks award for the redesign of the student curriculum in first year psychology.