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IoPPN researchers receive MQ PsychIMPACT awards

Dr Colette Hirsch, Clinical Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, has been awarded a PsychIMPACT award from new research charity MQ: Transforming Mental Health. 

MQ: Transforming Mental Health aims to support research that will improve quality of life for people and families affected by mental illness. Set up with the help of the Wellcome Trust, they seek to raise money and fund exceptional research. PsyIMPACT is the charity’s new flagship research programme designed to support innovative ways of providing more effective and accessible psychological treatments for common mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD. 

Dr Hirsch and her team have been awarded over £415,000 to develop new, more accessible evidence-based psychological techniques to target ‘worry and rumination’, dominant symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression across all cultures. 

This project targets key features of both depression and anxiety. To date we do not know whether the underlying mechanisms of worry in anxiety, and rumination in depression, are the same or different. Comparing results across worry and rumination will provide information about whether similar mechanisms maintain both processes. This is important because we increasingly understand that depression and anxiety have both shared and distinct features. This should open up new avenues for thinking about the underpinnings of depression and anxiety and consequently for developing new treatments.

Dr Hirsch says, “I would like to thank MQ: Transforming Mental Health for this award. We all worry about the future and dwell on negative things from the past from time to time. But when this type of thinking becomes repetitive and uncontrolled it can cause great distress, low mood and contribute to mental ill health. We hope our work will lead to new treatments for depression and anxiety.”

IoPPN researchers Professor Patrick Bolton, Professor in Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry,Professor Tony Charman, Chair in Clinical Child Psychology, andProfessor Andrew Pickles, Chair in Biostatistics, also received an award in collaboration with Professor Mark Johnson at Birkbeck, University of London and Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke at the University of Southampton, to trial the first computer-based preventative intervention for 10-month old infants at risk of ADHD. 

It is thought that ADHD symptoms start in infancy, well before the disorder is likely to be diagnosed.  These early emerging symptoms disrupt learning and development, which in turn can lead to later social and educational difficulties. Drug treatments for ADHD are effective; however, they are not appropriate for young children and are only licensed for children aged over six years.

Professor Charman says, “We are incredibly pleased to receive this award. ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders, affecting up to 5% of the general population, and can significantly impact on education, social and life outcomes. We hope that this novel early intervention approach will provide a much-needed and targeted approach to improving attention and behaviours thought to be hallmarks of ADHD.”