Date and time: Thursday, January 29, 4:00pm, room V101.
Title: “Vulnerability to depression"
Depression is a common and disabling disorder, with a particularly high illness burden, a long term trajectory, characterised by increased relapse rates and a poor prognosis. It is often triggered by stress, although the role of stress diminishes with increasing number of episodes, suggesting that the impact of stress on depression is strongest prior to the first episode. Several changes occurring at the same time lead to a weakening of the influence of stress on subsequent episodes include brain sensitization, personality changes or changes in cognitive schema/belief structure that may coincide with higher circulating cortisol or reductions in BDNF due to stress. Research priorities for the prevention of depression include developing interventions that are based on the causal mechanisms of the illness. However, causal mechanisms are not clear, but through vulnerability research there are grounds to be optimistic. In this talk, I will present a broad overview of how I have been investigating vulnerability and the way forward.
While pursuing a Masters in Applied Psychology at Brunel University I came to the realisation that it’s through conducting research, rather than clinical practice, would I be able to gain a more in-depth understanding of the various explanations of the aetiology of depression. I subsequently pursued a PhD at Oxford Brookes University in collaboration with the Department of Psychiatry, Oxford University, under Professor Cowen’s supervision, followed by a consolidating post-doctoral program within the department. My thesis was “Vulnerability to Depression: Neurobiological and Psychosocial Trait Markers of Depression”. My primary goal is to continue conducting research aimed at identifying vulnerability markers of depression that can be targeted for the prevention of its onset, and testing the effectiveness of appropriate interventions on those identified markers. My methods of investigation are cross-sectional and prospective by design, and I use various tools including biological sampling e.g. cortisol and BDNF measurement from blood and saliva samples, neuropsychological testing, various behavioural measures and neuroimaging techniques.