News

Mapping the teenage mind


12 November 2013

Imagine a classroom of normal healthy teenage girls. As many as half of them may grow up and develop anxiety and depression. But which ones will they be?

Join University of Sydney Professor of Psychiatry, Gin Malhi, when he presents his research investigating the minds of teenage girls on Wednesday 13 November.

The talk is the latest in a series of medicine lectures hosted by the University's Sydney Medical School every Wednesday until 27 November.

Professor Malhi will present cutting edge research findings using neuroimaging techniques and address how in the future we may be able to prevent the development of illnesses such as depression.

Professor Malhi's research team has managed to identify startling changes in key brain regions that occur before the onset of any clinical problems.

"These subtle changes in how the brain works provide clues as to how and why emotional disorders emerge," he said.

According to Professor Malhi, the prevalence of emotional disorders is greatly underestimated. He believes that as many as one in two people will have a mental health disorder at some time in their life, even if only in moderation and perhaps remedied by therapy or counseling.

"The biggest risk factor for emotional disorders is gender. Women are three times as likely to experience them. And that's why identifying vulnerability to anxiety and depression in adolescents is critical for shaping early interventions that may halt progression of the disorders."

If the team has been able to pin point a red flag for depression in 15 year-olds, Professor Malhi wonders if there might even be the chance of finding warning signs in much younger children.

"Are we picking it up early enough? And if we can pick up the changes even earlier, that's better. It's better because we can inform these children and their parents that there are strategies that will work in fending off depression.

"For example, we know exercise is a good anti-depressant and we already use it for depressed adults. We could help children at risk by getting them to change their diets and their lifestyles.

"Maybe we could have programs for 12-13 year-olds who are likely to develop emotional disorders and ensure that they never become depressed," he said.

The session will be chaired by Benjamin Veness, president of the Australian Medical Students' Association, who is currently leading a public awareness campaign on student mental health.

Event details

Speaker: Professor Gin Malhi, Professor of Psychiatry Sydney Medical School, Head of Psychiatry, Royal North Shore Hospital

When: 6pm- 7.30pm

Where: University of Sydney Business School, Stockland Building, Level 17,
133 Castlereagh Street, Sydney

Cost: Free and open to all with registration requested.

Event contact: Tina Burge 02 9114 1309, 0422 915 112, tina.burge@sydney.edu.au

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Media enquiries: Rachel Gleeson 02 9351 4630, 0481 004 782, rachel.gleeson@sydney.edu.au