Research Supervisor Connect

Understanding social problems in youth mental health


To improve cognitive-behavioural interventions and develop a better understanding of the interaction between biological and psychological processes. My current interests focus on anxiety disorders, autism, schizophrenia, and substance misuse. Please see the research summary below (synopsis) regarding project specifics. However, this research opportunity must be considered in the context of the facilities provided at the BMRI. The BMRI allows for front-line community-based research and the provision of quality treatment for hundreds of individuals across many mental health conditions, with over a thousand youth aged 12 to 30 acessing our services every year. The BMRI consists of interelated and integrated out-patient community treatment clinics across inner Sydney and western Sydney, with specialist centres included (Anxiety Clinic; Centre for Autism Research and Evaluation). We use a wide variety of neuroscience technology (e.g., Genotyping, PET, EEG, Chronobiology, eye-tracking) with a multi-disciplinary team of neuroscientists, neurologists, psychiatrists, general practitioners, clinical psychologists, nurses, social and youth workers to facilitate the development of research and psychobiological treatment approaches. This base provides a unique environment to conduct trials that have real community relevance while also integrating a range of potential neurobiological assessments/interventions. 


Associate Professor Adam Guastella.

Research location

Camperdown - Brain and Mind Centre

Program type



Clinical Psychology Interventions and Translational Neuroscience
Oxytocin improves social-communication processes in humans: I showed the powerful enhancing effects of oxytocin administration on face-perception and social-stimuli processing in humans. This research showed that oxytocin increases gaze to the eye-region of human faces and enhances encoding of positive social information. This research has laid some of the experimental foundation for future clinical treatment applications for a range of disorders. We are now currently evaluating whether oxytocin can be used to treat a range of mental health problems that are primarily associated with a difficulty in developing social-relationships (e.g., Autism; Schizophrenia; Substance Misuse/ Dependence). I am very keen to explore the neurobiological basis of fear extinction in humans and better understand how these medications can enhance learning.

Identifying Markers of Social Anxiety Disorder and How They Change Following Successful Cognitive-Behavioural Treatment
This research focuses on using fear-conditioning, cognitive attention tasks, decision making, hormonal and autonomic measures from young patients with Social Anxiety Disorder to determine how these markers change over the course of cognitive-behavioural treatment programs and are unique to the development of Social Anxiety Disorder. Social Anxiety Disorder is one of the most-common mental health problems in young people and we conceptualise it as a gateway disorder that substantially increases risk for chronic and persistent mental ill health over the course of a lifetime. This project will, therefore, substantially advance our knowledge of what marks the disorder in young people and how these markers change following successful treatment. This base provides a unique environment to conduct trials that have real community relevance while also integrating a range of potential neurobiological assessments/interventions.

Social anxiety: treatment and assessment
We currently run an active CBT group program to treat social concerns in young people and we wish to identify markers of response. We currently use a range of assessments (Startle Response, Conditioning; Attention Bias Assessment/ Modification) to assess markers of response and you can develop unique assessments to understand social anxiety disorder or to assess change subsequent to CBT therapy. We also offer a novel treatment project utilizing advances in attention bias modification that will be co-supervised by Colin Macleod (UWA).

Using Human Psychopharmacology Assessments to identify Unique Markers of Mental Ill-Health and Treatment Response
This research focuses on using plasma hormonal assessments to determine relationships of peripheral hormone levels and a range of mental health outcomes. This is primarily a psychopharmacology PhD and could explore how hormones and other potential markers of mental health problems or change following intervention in a range of clinical patient populations.The Youth Mental Health Clinic of the BMRI assesses over 1000 young people with mental health problems each year and provides treatment to patients with a range of mental health concerns (anxiety, depression, psychosis, addiction). This base provides a unique environment to conduct trials that have real community relevance while also integrating a range of potential neurobiological assessments/interventions.

Additional information

I am open to research supervision for multi-disciplinary students/courses, although the majority of my students are currently from psychology with a neuroscience and clinical psychology interest. Please see my homepage: 

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 714

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