Research behind Hugs not Drugs inspiring the next generation

16 March 2017

Sara Scott is completing her honours thesis in testing the effectiveness of a synthetic oxytocin compound and is encouraging the community to hear about how this critical work can help families affected by addiction.  

Psychology honours student Sara Scott in the lab. Photo: Jayne Ion

Sara Scott first became interested in Dr Michael Bowen’s work when some of his preliminary findings were presented to her in a third year psychology lecture.

“I remember being particularly impressed by Dr Bowen’s demonstration of a rat model showing that repeated oxytocin treatment during adolescence both increased social interest and reduced anxiety in adulthood. These changes were linked with reduced motivation to consume alcohol.

“I found this shift in focus extremely exciting. Instead of addressing the negative consequences of addiction, we could stimulate positive behaviours that could negate the need or desire for the drug,” said psychology honours student, Sara Scott.

Sara’s passion in studying psychology is focused on mental health and her introduction to this groundbreaking area of research has opened her eyes to the idea that treatment of mental illness could be approached from multiple perspectives. 

This type of research has considerable significance in illuminating the mechanisms behind mental disorders and uncovering new ways to treat them.
Sara Scott, Psychology honours student

Dr Michael Bowen is inspiring young researchers. Photo: Victoria Baldwin

“I decided that I would really like to do research in this area for my honours thesis and was lucky enough to have Michael agree to supervise me. Michael and his colleagues have developed a synthetic oxytocin compound (SOC-1). My project is designed to test the effectiveness of SOC-1 at both reducing alcohol consumption and preventing relapse.

“I will also explore the mechanisms by which this compound achieves its effects, particularly whether the expected reduction in motivation for alcohol results from a re-engagement of social interest.

“This type of research has considerable significance in illuminating the mechanisms behind mental disorders and uncovering new ways to treat them. This project is giving me a greater appreciation of the contribution animal research can make to clinical treatment.”

Sara is interested in pursuing a career in clinical practice, but she is struck by the skills she is developing in the lab – not only technical research skills, but management and teamwork, and is gaining a clear indication of what a career in research involves. 

A range of tablets spilled across a tabletop

Hugs not Drugs: Revolutionising the treatment of addiction

In the first Sydney Science Forum of 2017, Dr Michael Bowen from the School of Psychology provides a glimpse into his breakthrough solution to the burden of addiction.

Wednesday 22 March 2017
5.45pm - 7.00pm
Eastern Ave Auditorium, Camperdown Campus
Free, registration requested
Register now

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