About me: Jess studied Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, completing her final year research project under the supervision of Professor Kia Nobre and Dr Susannah Murphy. Following this, Jess completed an MSc in Clinical Mental Health Sciences at UCL. Here she worked with Professor Glyn Lewis and Dr Gemma Lewis to investigate longitudinal associations between emotional facial expression recognition and depressive symptom severity. Jess then worked as a research assistant in UCL Division of Psychiatry, developing and testing an intervention for people with complex depression or anxiety who feel lonely.
My research: Jess currently has an ESRC +3 PhD studentship and is supervised by Professors Glyn Lewis, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Jon Roiser, and Dr Gemma Lewis. Her research focuses on adolescent depression. In adolescence there is a large increase in rates of depression, particularly in females. Jess is examining whether the gender difference in depressive symptoms could be related to an increase in adolescents’ sensitivity to emotional information about social relationships. During adolescence, social relationships with peers become more important. Females in particular become more sensitive to their peers’ opinions. Adults with depression are worse at learning about social approval than healthy individuals. We do not know how such learning develops during adolescence. If adolescents became more sensitive to social approval and disapproval, this could explain why they are at increased risk of depression.
The difference my research makes: Jess is testing this hypothesis using cognitive tasks with adolescents in schools in London. Adolescents in early and late puberty will complete a task involving learning about social approval and disapproval, as well as measures of depression and social experiences. Changes in sensitivity to social approval and disapproval may provide targets for interventions that could prevent the first episode of adolescent depression. Preventing the first episode of adolescent depression would be of great public health benefit.
- Mann, F., Bone, J. K., Lloyd-Evans, B., Frerichs, J., Pinfold, V., Ma, R., … & Johnson, S. (2017). A life less lonely: the state of the art in interventions to reduce loneliness in people with mental health problems. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology 52, 627-638.
Pathway: Mental Health and Mental Health Care
Location: UCL Division of Psychiatry