Project Title

Cognitive strengths, motivation and functioning in first-episode psychosis

Project Type

Either MPhil or PhD

Supervisors

Research interests of the research team offering the project

Orygen's cognition research team focuses on better understanding cognition in relation to mental illness in young people. We are particularly interested in how we can use this knowledge to enhance real-world recovery outcomes.

Our research themes are broad but include work aiming to:

  • quickly and reliably detect cognitive strengths and weaknesses in young people with mental illness (i.e. cognitive screening);
  • better appreciate how cognition affects the symptomatic and functional aspects of mental illness in the early stages;
  • develop novel ways of addressing cognitive difficulties in clinical practice;
  • understand the lived experience of young people and collaborate with young people so that we can use our combined knowledge to enhance outcomes for others; and
  • translate our research findings into real-world clinical practice through partnership with youth mental health services, within and outside of Orygen.

Details of the project

Cognitive impairments are a common feature of psychosis that are associated with poor functioning and have therefore been a dominant research focus. The prevailing deficit focus has meant there has been no focus on the potential role that cognitive strengths may have in enhancing functional outcomes in psychosis. Drawing on self-determination theory and other psychological concepts, we have recently proposed that focusing on cognitive strengths may serve to enhance motivation and functioning in young people with first-episode psychosis. However, this theory is yet to be tested.

The aim of this study is to investigate the cross-sectional relationships (including mediation models) between cognitive strengths, motivational and psychological factors, and functioning in young people with first-episode psychosis. A key outcome of this research will be the refinement and validation of a novel cognitive strengths scale. The findings from this study will inform a cognitive strengths-based approach to assessment and intervention in early psychosis. This project would make a very novel and exciting contribution to the field of cognitive and functional rehabilitation in early psychosis.

Project references

  1. Allott K, Steele P, Boyer F, de Winter A, Bryce S, Alvarez-Jimenez M, et al. Cognitive strengths-based assessment and intervention in first-episode psychosis: A complementary approach to addressing functional recovery? Clinical Psychology Review. 2020;79:101871.
  2. Steele P, Cheng N, Phillips LJ, Bryce S, Alvarez-Jimenez M, Allott K. Cognitive strengths in first episode psychosis: a thematic analysis of clinicians' perspectives. BMC Psychiatry. 2021;21(1):612.
  3. Bryce S, de Winter A, Phillips L, Cheng N, Alvarez-Jimenez M, Allott K. Cognitive strengths in first-episode psychosis: perspectives from young people with lived experience. Psychosis. 2022:1-12.

Scholarships and fees

A stipend is not available for this project.

To complete this project as a MPhil:

Scholarships are available through the University of Melbourne. More information here.

Other scholarship opportunities may also be available but are highly competitive. Please speak to the contact person below for more information.

Domestic Master of Philosophy students do not incur fees. Information on University of Melbourne fees for international students is available here.

To complete this project as a PhD:

Scholarships are available through the University of Melbourne – find out more here.

Other scholarship opportunities may also be available but are highly competitive, so please speak to the contact person below for further details.

Information on fees for domestic and international students is available here.

How to apply

To complete this project as a MPhil:

  1. Read information for future students here, and check your eligibility here.
  2. Read our frequently asked questions here.
  3. Liaise with, and gain the support of, the supervisor/s. Please contact them using the details below and attach a copy of your CV and university transcript(s).
  4. Once you’ve gained supervisor support, submit your application here.

To complete this project as a PhD:

  1. Read information for future students here and check your eligibility here.
  2. Read our frequently asked questions here.
  3. Liaise with, and gain the support of, the supervisor/s. Please contact them using the details below and attach a copy of your CV and university transcript(s). 
  4. Once you’ve gained supervisor support, follow the steps outlined by the University of Melbourne here. You can go straight to Step 3. 

You are strongly encouraged to submit your application as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Contact

Associate Professor Kelly Allott
kelly.allott@orygen.org.au