Associate Professor Adam Guastella
Principal Research Fellow
M02 - Mallet Street Campus
Associate Professor Adam Guastella is a Clinical Psychologist and Principle Research Fellow at the Brain & Mind Research Institute. His primary interest is in developing novel treatments to improve social functioning in young patients with mental health problems. This research has led him to study (theory of mind, social cognition and social anxiety in patients presenting with a range of mental illnesses (anxiety, autism, psychosis, substance dependence). It also led expansion into psychopharmacology and psychophysiology, both of which he manages related laboratories as part of this research.
His research may take the form of cognitive-experimental investigations aimed at understanding how biology can interact with psychological processes to cause, maintain and recover from mental health problems. Alternatively, it may take the form of developing new interventions to be integrated and evaluated in our community treatment clinics.
His research is internationally recognised in two areas of research:
Oxytocin improves social-communication processes in humans: Assoc Prof. Guastella initiated a program of research that showed the powerful enhancing effects of oxytocin administration on face-perception and the cognitive processing of social-stimuli in humans. This research showed that oxytocin administration increases gaze to the eye-region of human faces and enhances processing of positive social information. Associate Prof. Guastella was also one of the first to show that oxytocin enhances emotion understanding in young people with autism. Dr Guastella is currently evaluating whether oxytocin can be used to treat a range of mental health problems that are primarily associated with a difficulty in developing social-relationships. This research advances our basic understanding for evolutionary and biosocial theories of bonding and attachment in humans and may lead an exciting new treatment approach for mental health problems.
D-Cycloserine (DCS) facilitates fear-extinction in humans: Dr Guastella conducted some of the first clinical treatment trials of medications that are thought to facilitate learning to overcome fear in humans. Consisting of both experimental investigation of fear-extinction in humans and large clinical treatment trials for phobia, social anxiety, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, these trials have shown that the administration of a simple, low-cost antibiotic before psychological therapy enhances treatment outcomes for anxiety. This has the potential to revolutionize how mental health professionals treat anxiety disorders in the community.
Current national competitive grants*
Attentional and conditioning mechanisms that mediate overcoming anxiety
Guastella A, Macleod C, Scott E
ARC Linkage Project ($299,201 over 2 years)
The Impact of Oxytocin (OT) on Social Cognition and Cognitive Remediation in Schizophrenia
Guastella A, Langdon R, Scott E, Ward P, Naismith S, Hodge M
Australian Research Council Linkage Project ($294,292 over 3 years)
* Grants administered through the University of Sydney