What are your research interests?
Schizophrenia and mental ill health: I have been working clinically and researching mental illness and severe psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia for three decades because these people are often our most marginalised and misunderstood in society. I’m interested in how schizophrenia impacts on a person’s ability to process socially meaningful information such as faces and emotions. More recently this research has focused on mother-infant relationships in women with mental illness to examine disturbances in parenting impacting attachment, emotional availability and child mental health and wellbeing.
Building pathways to living in the community for mental health hospital long-stay patients: Despite available treatments and good clinical practices, some individuals have complex mental health care needs, necessitating long periods of hospitalisation. Hospitals are not home. The Pathways to Community Living Initiative (PCLI) is a NSW Health program to assist people to transition from hospital to living in the community, and is being evaluated under my leadership to ensure that the lessons learned are translated into practice and policy change.
Communication in psychiatry: This international collaborative program has developed a communication skills training program for psychiatry (ComPsych) to help improve practitioner-patient communication and foster better clinical outcomes for patients with schizophrenia by better informing them about schizophrenia diagnosis and treatment.
Building world-class data repositories and biobanking facilities for schizophrenia research: From 1996 to 2015 I have been engaged in developing and managing large-scale Australian data repositories and biobanking facilities for genetic research into schizophrenia. The Australian Schizophrenia Research Biobank (ASRB) was established in 2003 and provides a national not-for-profit resource to support a wide spectrum of Australian and international schizophrenia research projects.
Why did you get into research?
No one decides to develop a mental illness, however 1 in 4 people do become mentally unwell, and 1 in 100 young people will develop schizophrenia. Although treatable, its not curable. I want to change that.
What is the ultimate goal for your research?
The end goal of my research is to bring about knowledge and change. I want to be the person who helps improve our understanding of schizophrenia, reduces stigma through education, and develops resources that will help us collectively to one day cure this illness.
Associate Professor Carmel Loughland has a joint funded position in Translational Mental Health Research with the Hunter New England Mental Health Service and NSW Ministry of Health, under the University of Newcastle Priority Research Centre for Brain and Mental Health. She is also a senior registered psychologist.
Associate Professor Loughland has a strong national and international track record in mental health research, particularly in severe psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Her research interests include medical education, in particular communication skills training for clinicians working in mental health; genetics and biobanking including the development of world class data-repository and biobanking facilities for schizophrenia research; cognitive remediation in schizophrenia and the use of psychophysiology (eye tracking) to investigate face processing deficits in this groups; and research translation, particularly around mental health reform and service practice and policy change concerning child mental health and wellbeing and mental health hospital long-stay patients and their transition from hospital to community living.
Associate Professor Loughland has successfully supervised a number of research higher degree students from the School of Medicine and Public Health, and School of Psychology, including PhD, Clinical Doctorate, Masters and Honours level students. Several have successfully completed their candidature and published articles in their relevant fields. She continues to mentor a number of these in their developing careers.
Associate Professor Loughland has been invited to present her research findings at national and international scientific meetings, including keynote speaker and symposium chair invitations, and has been invited to present at several community mental health forums. She has held key organisation roles in national and international scientific committees and her research has resulted in numerous high quality publications.
The ASRB consists of linked clinical and neuropsychological assessment, sMRI and DTI brain scanning, and genetic (DNA) sample collection in people with schizophrenia and healthy controls. Resources such as the ASRB engage the community in medical research by allowing volunteers to participate in research projects in their local area. Scientists are able to access these resources to recruit participants for their projects.
- Clinical translation and program evaluation in schizophrenia research
- Large-scale data repository and biobanking development, management and access
- Psychophysiology and its applications to face and emotion perception and processing in schizophrenia and other mental illnesses
- Communication education and training