Social Affective Neurodevelopment (SAND)

  • RESEARCH GROUP LEADER Associate Professor Sarah Whittle

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    +61 3 8344 1958

  • Project Details

    The Social Affective Neurodevelopment (SAND) research group was formed in 2015. The SAND group aims to characterise neurodevelopmental risk and resilience factors for common mental health problems in children and adolescents, particularly mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

    SAND members are involved in a number of projects, including:

    • PROJECT 1: Adolescent Development Study (ADS)
    • PROJECT 2: Families and Childhood Transitions Study (FACTS)
    • PROJECT 3: Imaging brain development in the Childhood to Adolescence Transition Study (iCATS)
    • PROJECT 4: Moral Emotions in Youth Depression


    Associate Professor Sarah Whittle heads the stream, which comprises a team of approximately 15 individuals (1 research fellow, 2 postdoctoral fellows, 8 PhD students, and 1 Honours student).

    Associate Professor Sarah Whittle
    Dr Julian Simmons (Research Fellow)
    Dr Orwa Dandish (Postdoctoral Fellow)
    Dr Rachel Ellis (Postdoctoral Fellow)
    Carolina Barbosa (MPsych/PhD)
    Marjolein Barendse (PhD)
    Coralie Bastin (PhD)
    Elena Pozzi (PhD)
    Camille Deane (PhD)
    Kate Bray (MPsych/PhD)
    Sally Richmond (MPsych/PhD)
    Jesse Smith (MPsych/PhD)
    Michelle Guneratne (Honours)


    Dr. Orli Schwartz, Prof Nick Haslam, Dr. Paul Dudgeon, Dr. Katherine Johnson (Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, UoM)
    A/Prof Neil O’Brien-Simpson (Melbourne Dental School, UoM)
    Prof David Forbes (Phoenix Australia - Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health), Department of Psychiatry, UoM
    Prof Andrew Chanen, Dr Chris Davey, Dr Cali Bartholomeusz (Orygen - The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health)
    Dr. Marc Seal, Prof George Patton, Dr. Lisa Mundy, A/Prof Craig Olsson (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)
    Dr. Despina Ganella, Dr. Jee Kim (Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health)
    Dr Eric Dommers (Brotherhood of St Laurence)

    International Collaborators

    Prof Nick Allen, Dr Michelle Byrne, Dr Nandita Vijayakumar (University of Oregon, USA)
    Dr Meg Dennison (University of Washington, USA)
    Dr. Michael Kaess (University of Heidelberg, Germany)
    A/Prof Nim Tottenham, Dr Bridget Callaghan (Columbia University, USA)
    Dr. Berna Goroglu (Leiden University, Netherlands).
    A/Prof. Elizabeth Shirtcliff (Iowa State, USA).


    2015-2019: National Health and Medical Research Council ($755,015)
    Title: Pubertal timing, brain development and mental health in adolescence
    Investigators: S Whittle, N Allen, G Patton, M Seal, J Simmons, P Dudgeon

    2015: University of Melbourne Dyason Fellowship
    Investigators: S Whittle

    2014: University of Melbourne Dyason Fellowship
    Investigators: JG Simmons

    2014-2016: National Health and Medical Research Council ($498,820)
    Title: Neural predictors of treatment response in youth depression
    Investigators: B Harrison, C Davey, M Yucel, S Whittle, A Fornito, J Pujol

    2014-2016: National Health and Medical Research Council ($390,879)
    Title: Erythrocyte Membrane Fatty Acid Concentrations and Myelin Integrity in Young People at Ultra-High Risk of Psychosis
    Investigators: P Amminger, C Pantelis, T Whitford, S Whittle, A Fornito, D Hermens

    2014: Murdoch Childrens Research Institute Population Health theme funding grant ($37,204)
    Title: The role of maternal history of mental disorder in fetal brain development and infant emotional regulation.
    Investigators: Craig Olsen, Sarah Whittle, Marc Seal

    2014-2015: NARSAD Young Investigator Grant (US $59,898)
    Title: Using a Novel Paradigm to Understand the Neural Mechanisms of Rejection Sensitivity in Adolescent Depression.
    Investigators: S Whittle

    2013-2015: Australian Research Council ($623,000)
    Title: Do family environments influence children's brain development during the transition to adolescence?
    Investigators: S Whittle, N Allen, M Seal, J Simmons, O Schwartz, M Yap, L Sheeber

    2013-2017: National Health and Medical Research Council ($873,689)
    The neuroendocrinological stress response system and stress vulnerability in youth with first-presentation borderline personality disorder
    Investigators: A Chanen, R Brunner, M Jovev, M Kaess, S Whittle

    2012-2015: National Health and Medical Council (NHMRC) Career Development Fellowship
    Title: Biological sensitivity to context: Risk and resilience for adolescent depression.
    Investigators: S Whittle

    2011: Received Australian Rotary Health Geoffrey Betts Postdoctoral Fellowship 2012 (relinquished to accept NHMRC CDF).
    Investigators: S Whittle

    2012-2014: Australian Research Council ($280,000)
    Title: Early puberty and brain development: exploring the neurobiology of adolescent mental health.
    Investigators: N Allen; S Whittle; G Patton; P Dudgeon; C Pantelis; C Olsson; S Wood

    2012-2014: National Health and Medical Research Council ($265,000)
    A Brain Based Measure of Anxiety Sensitivity: Validation of a Novel Intermediate Phenotype with Psychophysiologically Informed Neuroimaging
    Investigators: B Harrison, M Yucel, C Davey, J Pujol, N Allen, A Fornito, S Whittle

    2011: Cornelius Regan Trust Professional Development Grant, University of Melbourne ($5000). Awarded to attend a 2 week statistics course in Kansas, US.
    Investigators: S Whittle

    2010-2012: Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation ($117,560)
    Title: A prospective study of the influence of adolescent risk taking and mental health on gambling during emerging adulthood.
    Investigators: N Allen & S Whittle

    2010-2011: Australian Research Council ($379,400)
    Title: Genes, neuroanatomy and family process: Predicting adolescent anxiety and depression.
    Investigators: N Allen, S Whittle, M Yap, L Sheeber, D Foley, P Dudgeon, A Chanen,C Pantelis

    Research Group

    Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre Research

    Faculty Research Themes


    School Research Themes

    Neuroscience & Psychiatry

    Key Contact

    For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

    Department / Centre


    Unit / Centre

    Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre Research

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