Christine Leonards

Research Project Title: Altered neural activity as a marker of dysfunctional cognitive-affective processes and treatment response in depression.

Research Project Summary:
People with depression often experience cognitive-affective impairments, including in their decision-making ability. However, the neural mechanisms underlying these dysfunctional processes and how they may moderate treatment response are not fully understood. This PhD project will investigate task-related brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify the neural mechanisms that underlie impaired cognitive-affective function in depression as well as assess the predictive quality of this activity with regards to treatment response.

Student Profile:
I completed my undergraduate degree with honours in psychology at Macquarie University, Sydney. It was during this time that I developed a strong interest in research, so I went on to complete a Master of Research (psychology) with the view to then continue on to a PhD. However, after completion, I was offered the opportunity to purse registration as a psychologist, so I took a break from research to complete a Master of Professional Psychology and work towards general registration which I received in 2019. Working in private practice and mental health hospitals with diverse populations presenting with a range of psychiatric disorders allowed me to develop a deeper appreciation for the integration of clinical work and research, so I was keen to incorporate both of those in my PhD.

I am excited to be completing a PhD project that will produce new insights into the neural mechanisms underlying cognitive-affective disturbances in depression, and that can also be used to inform the effectiveness of treatments and treatment outcomes. I am grateful to be completing a joint PhD which I view as an invaluable opportunity to collaborate with international teams, expand my cultural and research horizons, and further develop my neuroscientific knowledge and skills as a researcher.

Project Duration: 3 – 4 years


University of Melbourne: Prof. Chris Davey, Prof. Ben Harrison

University of Bonn:  Prof Dr Alexandra Philipsen, Prof Dr Ulrich Ettinger, Prof. Dr. Bernd WeberProf Dr Silke Lux