The University of Newcastle, Australia

Australia-Germany Joint Research Cooperation Scheme

Associate Professor Juanita Todd from University of Newcastle’s School of Psychology was a successful applicant in the 2015 round of the Australia-Germany Joint Research Cooperation Scheme.

The overarching aim of Juanita’s research is to understand the causes of cognitive deficits in persons affected by schizophrenia. Cognitive deficits experienced by those with schizophrenia are a major determinant of the level of disability both in terms of employment and general daily function.

Understanding causal relations between different areas of cognitive deficit (e.g., relevance-filtering and attention) will help identify where treatment should be targeted and how it should work.

The joint research scheme funding facilitates collaboration with Professor Erich Schroger, Professor for Cognitive including Biological Psychology, and his team at the University of Liepzig, Germany.

“I am thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity to my team,” Juanita says.

“Professor Schröger’s group are an ideal destination for our ECRs because of their excellence in both science and character. The planned activities will expand on our joint skill base and show-case important developments in both labs. The visits will enable us to forge timely links that expand our capacity and the impact of pioneering work here at UoN designed to understand cognitive processes using joint modelling of brain and behaviour measures.”

Dr Schroger is equally enthusiastic regarding opportunities presented by the collaboration.

“The Australia-Germany Joint Research Cooperation Scheme offers the great opportunity for my group to cooperate with Juanita Todd’s group, which has a unique profile in studying not only functional but also dysfunctional neural processes underlying perception, memory and attention, “ Dr Schroger says.

“With this grant, we will be able to train our junior researchers in Juanita’s lab and to incorporate new expertise to my lab.”

The funding will facilitate a Postdoctoral Researcher and PhD Candidate from Australia travelling to Germany for 3 weeks, and a Postdoctoral Researcher and PhD Candidate from Germany visiting Australia for 2 weeks.

An exchange of expertise facilitated by this exchange will expand outcomes of data acquired by Juanita’s team in an NHMRC-funded project, begun in 2015.

This new work applies innovative mathematical modeling techniques developed by UON’s Professor Scott Brown to the outcomes of ‘distraction paradigm’ task, developed by Professor Schroger, to identify how the faulty relevance-filtering in schizophrenics disrupts the capacity to focus attention on primary tasks.

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