Mental illness is a national health priority in Australia with one in five adults in Australia having an episode of mental illness in any one-year period. Drugs play a major part in the treatment of mental illness, giving pharmacists the potential to play a significant role in delivering treatment and services to mental health patients. The aim of research at the Faculty of Pharmacy under this theme is to develop treatment for neurological diseases and increase the diversity of agents to investigate potential receptors and targets in treatment.
The research group has expertise in the development of specific nicotinic receptors, behavioural aspects of drugs in an ageing population, the effects of these drugs on memory and learning and plans to focus further research into the mechanism of action of sedatives, hypnotics, stimulants and drugs of abuse. Other areas of research include inter-professional collaboration between pharmacists and medical practitioners in medication review and mental health services.
- Anxiety and Depression
There is a vigorous research program at the Faculty in the areas of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology focusing on key targets for drugs that have important therapeutic actions on disorders such as myopia, epilepsy, anxiety, depression and memory-related deficits implicated in Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia.
GABA is an anti-anxiety neurotransmitter. Currently investigations around GABA release in the thalamus will hopefully determine more about the neuronal circuitry involved in these pathways. In collaboration with the Department of Pharmacology, other studies are looking at the use of flavanoids as modulators of GABA receceptors. This information will then be used in the designing of novel compounds with enhanced activity.
With collaborators, the team was the first to show that TPMPA, a selective GABAC receptor antagonist enhanced memory in animal models and have since developed novel and selective GABAC receptor antagonists that cross the blood-brain barrier. These agents show promising results in animal models of memory and are being evaluated in pre-clinical trials.
Mental Health Services
One of the current research projects is assessing the impact of mental health consumer educators on improving mental health literacy and stigma, in pharmacy students and interns. Using ‘consumer educators’ in role-play scenarios provides an authentic, real-life means of understanding the needs and challenges of mental health patients. Other research is evaluating a mental health first aid program for pharmacists, which gives essential information and advice on interaction with people who suffer from psychological or mental illness episodes.