Cognitive training combined with non-invasive brain stimulation for the treatment of late life depression (LLD)


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Project description:

The two distinct, yet related, PhD projects will be devoted to studying different aspects of applying a novel treatment approach, combining psychosocial training along with non-invasive brain stimulation to improve outcomes related to mental health and cognitive status in LLD.

Both PhD candidates will collect data using the same training paradigm in both Israel and Australia while focusing on different research questions. The two studies will be conducted independently; however, it is our hope that our design will subsequently allow us to pool data from both studies and evaluate outcomes on a larger sample.

To address these research questions, an electroencephalogram (EEG) will be measured from study participants before and after the intervention, using the g.Tech nautilus system available in Dr Nahum’s lab. The Nahum lab has developed a pipeline of data analysis methods for analysing resting state EEG data, on which the candidates will be trained and that will be applied to the current population.

In addition, a mobile app developed by the Nahum lab will be used to collect Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) data from patients during the 2 weeks before and after treatment. This methodology will be used to study ecological changes in mood and cognition as a result of treatment. We expect that applying this novel, ecological methodology in the context of LLD will lead to novel data on the manifestation of mood and cognition in the daily lives of those struggling with LLD.

The two PhD candidates will work together under the supervision of both PIs on the development of the treatment and assessment protocol that will be used in both the Israel-based and Australian-based trials.

Project goals

PhD Project 1 (based at The University of Melbourne)
Project title: Cognitive and psychosocial training combined with non-invasive brain stimulation for the treatment of mild-moderate depression in older adults.

The project will focus on improving behavioural aspects of the intervention, specifically by:

  1. Incorporating novel, gamified approaches to the training of cognition, particularly social cognition.
  2. The incorporation of behaviour-change theory and methodology to better tailor the treatment to the profile of individual participants and improve treatment adherence in the context of remote delivery.
  3. The project will also address the relative and combined effects of the behavioural intervention and the non-invasive brain stimulation to test the hypothesis that the combined approach is associated with improved cognitive and affective outcomes relative to either of the approaches in isolation.

PhD Project 2 (based at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Project title: Changes in neural oscillations and in everyday mood and cognition following treatment in LLD.

The project will focus on two main aspects:

  1. Changes in resting-state neural oscillations following the application of the combined treatment approach.
  2. Changes in everyday mood and cognitive states following treatment.

Answering these questions will provide a deeper understanding of the neural changes associated with training and may lead to better tailoring of individualized training programs for the elderly struggling with LLD, which can be applied in an ecological, everyday setting.

Supervision team

Dr Alex Bahar-Fuchs – The University of Melbourne

Dr Mor Nahum – The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Who we are looking for

Skills and requirements:

  • Demonstrated experience in the field of neurological sciences.
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and as part of the team.
  • Demonstrated time and project management skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to write research reports or other publications to a publishable standard (even if not published to date).

First published on 27 May 2022.

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