MNC researcher investigates cognitive impairment

Dr Van Rheenen, a researcher at the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre (MNC), is trying to better understand cognitive impairments in people with severe mental illness.

Dr Van Rheenen joined MNC in 2015, after receiving an NHMRC Early Career Fellowship to pursue a program of research at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Psychiatry, which incorporates neuroimaging into her existing behavioural work on cognition in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Dr Van Rheenen is currently leading several projects aimed at understanding crossover between these disorders in relation to cognitive skills. She has obtained several research grants, travel fellowships and awards in relation to her work. In 2015, she was named one of the Australian Institute of Policy and Science’s Young Tall Poppies, for her academic achievements and science communication as an early career researcher. She is the current co-chair of the Australasian Society for Bipolar and Depressive Disorders Early Career Researcher Committee and she hopes that her research will help to provide greater insight into the underlying causes of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, with a view to improving current treatments.

One of the new projects being led by Dr Van Rheenen will study people with bipolar disorder to better understand brain patterns associated with emotion processing. The study is being conducted in collaboration with both Swinburne University and the Monash Alfred Psychiatry research centre (MAPrc). It will involve the use of several behavioural and brain imaging measures including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and a relatively new technique in Australia; magnetoencephalography (MEG).

By using these measures, Dr Van Rheenen will be able to determine not only where in the brains of people with bipolar disorder cognitive abnormalities may be occurring, but also at what time scale they are occurring. This could provide important clues about how different parts of the brain communicate with each other when processing information.

To participate in Dr Van Rheenen’s research email her at: