Cognition, Emotion and Mental Health
Our programme has two aims:
- To understand the core processes involved in the onset, maintenance, and recovery from mood and anxiety disorders such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children, adolescents, and adults.
- To translate this understanding to generate novel forms of psychological treatment for these syndromes and to provide greater clarity concerning the mechanisms of action of existing treatments.
Our research is guided by the MRC’s framework for developing complex interventions and occupies a trajectory ranging from basic cognitive neuroscience through to randomised clinical trials. This work is grounded within a transdiagnostic framework, taking the view that the greatest potential for understanding and treating affective disorders is to focus on maladaptive underlying psychological and biological processes that cross traditional diagnostic boundaries, rather than pursue diagnosis-led research.
We use cognitive-experimental, psychophysiology, genetic, and neuroimaging methodologies in the laboratory and prospective longitudinal and clinical trial designs outside the laboratory. Our basic and pre-clinical science is carried out at the CBSU. Our clinical research is carried out at the Cambridge Centre for Affective Disorders (C2:AD) directed by Tim Dalgleish.
A transdiagnostic approach to treating affective disorders
Anxiety and mood disorders are common conditions, affecting up to 20% of adults. The presentation of these disorders can often be complex, with many individuals experiencing comorbid anxiety and mood disorders. Current treatment approaches are ‘disorder-specific’, and work well for those who fit neatly into a single diagnosis, but are far less effective for those with multiple diagnoses. We have therefore developed a new psychological treatment for anxiety and mood problems; the Modular Protocol for Mental Health (MPMH). Instead of focusing on any single diagnosis, MPMH combines the best treatment techniques into 10 modules, each of which targets problems common across the different mood and anxiety diagnoses (e.g., intense emotions, negative thinking, upsetting memories, distressing habits). We are currently completing a Phase II feasibility trial to determine the effectiveness of MPMH, compared to NHS treatment as usual, in improving symptoms for those with multiple diagnoses
Treatment of PTSD
Complementing our basic research work on affective memories and their control, we are running an exploratory randomised clinical trial (RCT) testing new a clinical intervention for PTSD where the core focus of treatment is on restructuring trauma memories and enhancing the ability to regulate them. Building upon our previous work (e.g., the ASPECTS trial led by Dr Richard Meiser-Stedman), the NIHR-funded PYCES trial is examining the efficacy of memory-focused CBT as an early intervention for very young children (3-8 years old) with PTSD. The trial embeds basic science components to investigate the hypothesis that the intervention exerts its effect by changing the nature of traumatic memories and their regulation.
Tim Dalgleish, Clinical Psychologist & Programme Leader
Susanne Schweizer, Investigator Scientist
Jason Stretton, Investigator Scientist
Darren Dunning, Post-Doctoral Scientist
Melissa Black, Clinical Psychologist
Anna Bevan, Clinical Psychologist and PhD Student
Ben Goodall, Clinical Psychologist and PhD Student
Julia Gillard, PhD Student
Georgina Smith, PhD Student
Kirsty Griffiths, PhD Student
Jenna Parker, Research Assistant
Evi Rodrigues, Research Assistant
Cliodhna O Leary, Assistant Psychologist
Rachel Elliott, Assitant Psychologist