QIMR’s Mental Health and Complex Disorders Research Program Coordinator, Professor Michael Breakspear said by using state of the art equipment, his team hopes to develop an accurate, non-invasive tool to effectively diagnose a range of mental disorders.
“We are analysing recordings of people’s facial expressions and eye movements taken whilst viewing emotionally charged film clips and identifying differences in depressed patients compared with healthy people from the general community,” Professor Breakspear said.
“We have found that people suffering with depression tend to show fewer facial expressions during funny and sad film clips and we believe this difference may be used to better diagnose mental illness.”
Professor Breakspear and his team are studying the brain activity of study participants using the latest brain imaging and computer modelling to better understand the causes and physical impacts of mental illness.
“Our aim is to work very closely with patients when they first present for assessment – prior to receiving treatment. The information collected will provide us with a better understanding of the impact these mental illnesses have on thinking and brain function and help identify causes of disturbances in basic day to day functioning,” Professor Breakspear said.
“Depression is one of the most common of all mental health problems. At least one in five Australians will experience major depression sometime in our lifetimes, and about half of people with depression also suffer from anxiety disorders.
“Mental illness can impact every facet of your life and your family’s life, yet still so many mental illnesses are misunderstood.
“Ideally, through improvements in diagnosis and management, our research aims to improve the quality of life for those with a mental illness.
“We hope our work will also reduce the stigma of mental illness so it is considered equal to physical illnesses.”
Professor Breakspear is looking for healthy volunteers to participate in his research. If you’re between 18 and 85 years old, living in Queensland, Australia and interested in helping, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.