Volunteers needed to take part in mental health study

The University of East Anglia

The University of East Anglia - Credit: Supplied

Volunteers are needed to take part in a new study at the University of East Anglia that aims to understand part of the brain that has been linked to mental health disorders.

Most everyday human behaviours occur automatically and unconsciously and a key region of brain involved in learning and generating these is the cerebellum.

Researchers want to look at how this part of the brain functions in healthy individuals in order to understand what happens to the cerebellum when people suffer mental health issues.

Dr Nick Walsh, a lecturer in developmental psychology in the UEA's School of Psychology, said: 'A major barrier to understanding the role of this region of the brain in mental health disorders is that we still do not fully understand what this part of the brain does in healthy individuals. Furthermore, we do not understand what happens when people find themselves in different situations that might uncover these unconscious patterns of behaviour.

'This research will help us understand the development of mental health disorders in later life. We are looking at certain processes in healthy individuals, about how people behave, which will tell us a lot about things that might go wrong and lead to problems.'

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This new research, due to start next month, will involve testing 150 participants on tasks that involve the cerebellum in three separate experiments conducted over three months.

The research follows on from previous work from Dr Walsh who found the cerebellum to be smaller in people exposed to family conflict in childhood and adolescence. Other studies have associated this part of the brain with many forms of mental health disorders, such as autism, ADHD and schizophrenia, as well as mood and anxiety disorders.

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To be eligible to take part in the study volunteers must be aged 18 to 35, be generally fit and healthy, and have normal or corrected-to-normal vision. For more information about taking part, email the study coordinator Delia Gheorghe at d.gheorghe@uea.ac.uk

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