University of Newcastle: NHMRC supports research into psychotic disorders

University Newcastle PhD student Dr Jayson Jeganathan will investigate the negative symptoms of psychosis after he was awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 2021 Postgraduate Scholarship.

Impairments in facial expressivity, motivation, and sociality – the ‘negative symptoms’ – are the most debilitating features of psychotic disorders, yet they are inadequately treated.

Dr Jeganathan received a two-year scholarship worth nearly $94,000 to use facial emotion detection algorithms, functional brain imaging, and novel approaches including real-time facial feedback and heart rate feedback, to discover the changes in the brain’s emotional circuits that underlie negative symptoms.

Dr Jeganathan has previously proposed that emotion depends on predictions about internal body sensations like heartrate and predictions about the social consequences of emotional displays, such as whether a conversational partner will mirror one’s smiles or not. This research project will test the theory that abnormal predictions in these areas cause negative symptoms.

More than $7.24m was awarded to 65 outstanding health and medical graduates through NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarships.

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