Mental Health Information Centre - Southern Africa

Our research studies

The extramural Research Unit on Anxiety and Stress Disorders was established by the MRC in 1997. The Unit has worked towards obtaining status as a cross-University Centre, with key unit researchers now located at the University of Stellenbosch, as well as the University of Cape Town (UCT), and at Northwest University. Prof Dan J. Stein, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UCT, is director of the Unit. Priority has been given to establishing a unit focusing on anxiety disorders, including PTSD, fostering a multi-disciplinary biopsychosocial approach to the anxiety disorders, promoting increased awareness of the anxiety disorders in the community, and finally, ensuring capacity building of clinical and research skills in students and staff. In 2017 the name of the unit was changed to the SU/UCT MRC Unit on Risk and Resilience in Mental Disorders. Students, post-doctoral fellows and any others should contact the Unit if interested in our work: tel nr: 021 938 9229; Prof Dan J. Stein: Dan.Stein@uct.ac.za; Prof Christine Lochner: cl2@sun.ac.za.

Projek 1

Stellenbosch Universiteit is besig met breinskandering-navorsing oor sosiale angssteuring (SAS)

 Wat behels hierdie navorsingsprojek? U het dalk al van neurale netwerke gehoor. ‘Neurale netwerke’ verwys na die manier waarop verskillende dele van die brein saamwerk om spesifieke dinge te doen. Verskillende areas in die brein is byvoorbeeld betrokke by die verstaan van wat ’n mens met sy oë sien. Al dié areas is saam bekend as die ‘visuele netwerk’. ʼn Ander netwerk is dalk betrokke by die manier waarop sosiale situasies verstaan word – bv. die identifisering van ander mense se emosies terwyl jy by ʼn partytjie met hulle praat. Ons vermoed dat hierdie ‘sosiale netwerk’ anders is in mense met SAS en ons wil dit ondersoek. Ons wil ook sien watter effek behandeling van SAS op hierdie netwerk het.

Hoe word die studie gedoen? Ons beplan om twee tipes breinskandering te doen (om die netwerk te bestudeer) asook toetse van sosiale funksie in pasiënte met en sonder SAS. Vir mense met SAS sal ons dieselfde toetse na ’n kursus van behandeling (moklobemied) herhaal om te sien of daar enige verandering was.

Ons benodig vrywilligers met SAS om deel te neem. Met uitsluiting van die aanvanklike (siftings-) besoek, sal SAS vrywilligers 8 studie-besoeke (oor ʼn tydperk van 9 weke) moet bywoon, terwyl vrywilligers sonder SAS 4 studie-besoeke (oor ʼn tydperk van 1-2 weke) moet bywoon. Vrywilligers sal vir hulle kos en reiskoste vergoed word.

Die projek is reeds sedert 2015 aan die gang en vorder fluks.

Kwalifiseer ek? Vir verskeie redes moet u voldoen aan al die onderstaande kriteria om aan die studie deel te neem:

  • Ouer as 18 jaar
  • Vlot in Engels (vraelyste en video’s is slegs in Engels beskikbaar)
  • Regshandig (linkshandige persone se brein is anders)
  • Nie swanger of borsvoed nie
  • Geen ander psigiatriese toestande (bv. depressie, skisofrenie) behalwe SAS nie (SAS deelnemers)
  • Geen beduidende psigiatriese toestande nie (gesonde vrywilligers)
  • Nie tans op enige medikasie vir ‘n psigiatriese toestand nie, of is bereid om medikasie tydelik te onderbreek om aan die studie deel te neem.
  • Geen vorige of huidige mediese toestande wat die brein direk beïnvloed nie, (bv. vorige kopbesering met bewussynsverlies of breinoperasies), geen metaal-inplantings in die skedel, geen suikersiekte (diabetes) nie
  • In staat om in ‘n breinskandeerder stil te lê vir tot ‘n uur op ‘n slag

Indien u belangstel (óf as ‘n SAS deelnemer óf as ‘n gesonde vrywilliger), kontak asseblief enige van die ondersoekbeamptes:

Prof Christine Lochner (cl2@sun.ac.za ): Tel: 021 – 938 9179

Dr Alex Doruyter (doruyter@sun.ac.za): Tel: 021 – 938 5290

Mnr Lian Taljaard (liant@sun.ac.za): Tel: 021 – 938 9654

Stellenbosch University is conducting neuroimaging research in social anxiety disorder (SAD)

Brain imaging research in the past has largely been focused on looking at regional differences in activity in the brain. So for example, researchers demonstrated that in the brains of people with SAD, there might be more activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain involved in anxiety) than would be expected in people without the disorder. While this work remains important, such regional differences only represent part of the picture!

Functional connectivity research is a recent method of brain analysis that allows scientists to examine how multiple, widespread connections in the brain result in these regional differences in activity. Groups of these connections form what are known as ‘neural networks’ and several of such networks have so far been detected. There is some evidence that one network in the brain (called the default mode network) may play a role in how social information is processed (social information includes our perceptions and thoughts about other people and how they perceive us).

We are interested in networks in the brains of SAD sufferers and whether they differ from those without the disorder. We want to investigate whether network differences can be linked to how people with SAD process social information. We also want to see the effect of treatment (using an established treatment for SAD – moclobemide) on these networks.

The project has been ongoing since 2015, and is progressing well.

All participants undergo two types of brain scan (FDG PET/CT and fMRI) and a series of psychological tests. SAD volunteers then receive an 8-9 week course of moclobemide followed by repeat testing and scanning. Excluding the initial (screening) visit, SAD participants attend 8 study visits over the course of 9 weeks, while healthy volunteers (without SAD) attend 4 study visits over the course of 1-2 weeks. Participants are reimbursed for their food and travel costs.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Between the ages of 18 and 55
  • Fluent in English (the psychological tests are only available in English)
  • Right-handed (left-handed people’s brains are different)
  • Not pregnant or breastfeeding
  • No dominant psychiatric conditions other than Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD participants)
  • No significant psychiatric conditions at all (volunteers without SAD)
  • Not currently on any medications for a psychiatric condition, or willing to temporarily interrupt medications to participate in the study.
  • A few other medications might interfere with the study: the study doctor will check this provided you meet the other criteria.
  • No previous or current medical conditions that directly affect the brain, (including previous head injury with loss of consciousness or brain surgery), no metal implants in the skull, no diabetes (affects the scan)
  • Able to lie still in a scanner for up to an hour at a time

If you suspect you have SAD or have been diagnosed with SAD and are interested in taking part in the study; or if you are willing to volunteer as a healthy control (without SAD), please contact any of the following:

Prof Christine Lochner (cl2@sun.ac.za ): Tel: 021 – 938 9179

Dr Alex Doruyter (doruyter@sun.ac.za): Tel: 021 – 938 5290

Mr Lian Taljaard (liant@sun.ac.za): Tel: 021 – 938 9654

Project 2

‘n Projek oor dobbelsteuring en metamfetamien (“tik-“) gebruiksteuring

Ly u aan dobbelsteuring of gebruik u gereeld “tik”? U kan deelneem aan ‘n belangrike nuwe navorsingsprojek by die MNR Eenheid vir Angs- en Stressteurings by die Universiteite van Stellenbosch en Kaapstad.

Die projek dek verskeie aspekte van hierdie toestande, insluitend die simptome en erns daarvan, die impak op persone se lewenskwaliteit, en sluit ook ondersoeke na die genetiese onderbou en die struktuur en werking van sekere brein-areas wat betrokke kan wees by hierdie toestande in.

Kwalifiseer ek? Vir verskeie redes moet u voldoen aan al die onderstaande kriteria om aan die studie deel te neem:

  • Tussen 18 en 65 jaar oud
  • Vlot in Engels (vraelyste en video’s is slegs in Engels beskikbaar)
  • Regshandig
  • Verkieslik nie tans op enige psigiatriese medikasie nie, of is bereid om medikasie tydelik te onderbreek om aan die studie deel te neem.
  • Voldoen aan ʼn diagnose van dobbelsteuring of metamfetamien (“tik-“) gebruiksteuring

3 sessies:

1) ‘n Volledige siftings- en diagnostiese onderhoud, met selfrapporteringsvraelyste en die trek van bloed vir genetiese analise.

2) Indien iemand kwalifiseer om deel te neem, word ‘n breinskandering gedoen.

3) Voltooiing van ‘n aantal rekenaar-gebaseerde en papier-en-pen take.

Deelname is gratis en persoonlike inligting sal streng vertroulik hanteer word.

Dit is nie ‘n behandelingstudie nie. Indien u belangstel in behandeling, sal opsies bespreek kan word en ‘n verwysing kan gereël word.

Vir meer inligting, kontak:

Prof Christine Lochner, tel: 021 – 938 9179, e-pos: cl2@sun.ac.za

Dr Samantha Brooks, tel: 021 – 4045427, e-pos: drsamanthabrooks@gmail.com

A project on gambling disorder and methamphetamine (“tik”) use disorder (MUD)

 Do you suffer from gambling disorder (also known as compulsive or pathological gambling) or do you use methamphetamine (“tik”) regularly? You can take part in an important new study on these conditions that is conducted by the MRC Unit on Anxiety & Stress Disorders at the Universities of Stellenbosch and Cape Town.

The study covers many aspects of these conditions – symptoms, illness severity and impact on the quality of life, while also looking at genetics and the structure of certain brain regions that are implicated.

Gambling disorder (GD) is characterized by the inability to resist gambling despite severe disruption to work, social and family life. Individuals with GD may continually chase their losses, hide their behaviour, tell lies about where they go, how much they spend or owe, accumulate debt, or even resort to theft or fraud to continue gambling. There is no single known cause of GD, but there is evidence suggesting involvement of both genetic and environmental factors.

“Tik” is highly addictive and one of the most common drugs used in the Western Cape. Chronic tik abusers show symptoms that can include violent behaviour, anxiety, confusion and sleep disturbances. They can also display a number of psychotic features, including paranoia, “hearing voices” (auditory hallucinations), mood disturbances and disturbed thinking (i.e. “delusions”, e.g. the sensation of insects creeping on the skin, called “formication”). MUD is also accompanied by functional and molecular changes in the brain.

 Eligibility criteria:

  • Should be between 18 and 65 years old
  • Right-handed
  • Diagnosed with or suspect they have one of the above conditions
  • Preferably not be on any chronic psychiatric medication at the time of participation

 What does participation involve?

3 sessions:

1) Undergoing a screening interview and diagnostic assessment, filling out of self-report questionnaires and taking a blood sample for genetic analysis.

2) If suitable for the study, participants undergo brain scanning during the next session.

3) Completion of a number of computerized and paper-and-pen brain tasks.

 Participation is cost-free.

This is not a treatment study. However, if you are interested in treatment, options will be discussed with you, and referral arranged.

 If you want more information or want to participate, please contact:

Prof Christine Lochner, tel: 021 – 938 9179, e-mail: cl2@sun.ac.za

Dr Samantha Brooks: e-mail: drsamanthabrooks@gmail.com

Projek 3

‘n Projek oor obsessief-kompulsive steuring (OKS) en haar-uittreksteuring (trichotillomanie)

Navorsers van die MNR Eenheid vir Angs & Stressteurings, by die Universiteite van Stellenbosch en Kaapstad is steeds op soek na vrywilligers om deel te neem in ‘n kliniese, genetiese brein-beelding studie oor OKS en haar-uittreksteuring (trichotillomanie).

Drie “tipes” vrywilligers word benodig vir deelname:

  1. Regshandige persone (tussen die ouderdomme 18 en 65 jaar) gediagnoseer met OKS;
  2. Regshandige persone (tussen die ouderdomme 18 en 65 jaar) gediagnoseer met haar-uittreksteuring (trichotillomanie);
  3. Gesonde regshandige eerste-graad familie (tussen die ouderdomme 18 en 65 jaar) van persone gediagnoseer met OKS.

Deelname behels bywoning van 3 sessies. Die eerste sessie bestaan uit ‘n onderhoud, die invul van vraelyste en die neem van’ n bloedmonster vir genetiese analise.

Indien die persoon kwalifiseer, sal die daaropvolgende twee sessies ‘n breinskandering en ‘n aantal neurosielkundige take op ‘n rekenaar insluit.

Die studie sluit nie behandeling in nie maar verwysings kan op versoek gereël word.

Deelnemer-inligting sal vertroulik gehou word.

As u meer inligting wil hê, kontak:

Prof Christine Lochner 021-938 9179, e-pos: cl2@sun.ac.za of mnr Lian Taljaard 021 – 938 9654, e-pos: liant@sun.ac.za vir meer inligting.

A project on obsessive-compulsive and hair-pulling disorder (trichotillomania)

This is an important clinical, genetics and brain-imaging study conducted by the MRC Unit on Anxiety & Stress Disorders at Stellenbosch University in conjunction with researchers at Cambridge University in the UK. The study covers clinical aspects of these disorders – symptoms, illness severity, impact on the quality of your life, treatment history and childhood trauma history, while also looking at genetics and the structure of certain brain regions implicated in these conditions.

 What is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)? In DSM-IV (which is one of the major diagnostic tools used in practice), OCD was categorized as one of the anxiety disorders. In DSM-5 however, OCD now falls under a grouping of obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. OCD is a psychiatric disorder characterized by obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are persistent, “self-generated” (i.e. not delusional or psychotic) thoughts or mental images that are time-consuming, cause significant distress or functional impairment. Compulsions, on the other hand, are repetitive mental (e.g. counting, repeating words) or behavioural (e.g. hand-washing, checking) acts that the person feels obliged to perform in an attempt to reduce the anxiety or distress or to prevent some dreaded event. However, compulsions are not inherently enjoyable, are often extremely time-consuming and do not result in the completion of a useful task.

 What is hair-pulling disorder (HPD)? HPD is also now categorized as an obsessive-compulsive related disorder. It is characterized by recurrent pulling out of one’s hair resulting in hair loss, with repeated attempts to decrease or stop hair-pulling. The hair-pulling causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

 How prevalent are these disorders in SA? OCD, together with other mental disorders like HPD, account for the 2nd largest portion on our national burden of disease after HIV/AIDS. The causality or “working” of these conditions is not yet fully established. It can therefore be argued that it is necessary to do research on disorders such as OCD and HPD, so that the symptomatology and the neurobiological underpinnings can be better understood and that improved treatments can be found.

Who can volunteer?
– Volunteers who are right-handed and aged between 18 and 65 years
– Persons with OCD or HPD
– First-degree relatives of persons diagnosed with OCD
– Healthy controls

 How will it work? Participation involves attendance of 2 sessions, with the first session comprising of a screening interview, filling out of self-report questionnaires and taking a blood sample for genetic analysis. If suitable for brain imaging, participants are scanned during a subsequent session. Participants also complete a number of neuropsychological tasks in the form of computerized games. Participation is cost-free and participant information will be kept confidential.

Who to contact to take part? If you want more information or want to participate, please contact: Prof Christine Lochner 021 – 938 9179, e-mail: cl2@sun.ac.za or Mr Lian Taljaard 021 – 938 9654, e-mail: liant@sun.ac.za  for more information.

Project 4

Kognitiewe opleiding of onderrig (“cognitive training”) vir persone met obsessief-kompulsiewe steuring (OKS)

Ons het onlangs met ‘n nuwe projek, wat ‘n behandelingskomponent insluit, begin. Hierdie studie word gedoen deur die MNR Eenheid vir Angs & Stressteurings by Stellenbosch Universiteit ) en die Universiteit van Kaapstad.

Hierdie projek is gebaseer op die bevinding dat die versterking van daardie dele van die brein wat verantwoordelik is vir gefokuste denke ‘n positiewe impak het op die regulering van sekere gedragswyses. Versterking van hierdie dele van die brein word bereik deur ‘n proses genaamd kognitiewe opleiding (“cognitive training”). Ons is geïnteresseerd om te sien of kognitiewe opleiding van persone met OKS kan help om hul obsessies / kompulsies (d.w.s. problematiese gedrag tipies van OKS) te verminder.

Ons kognitiewe opleidingsprogram maak gebruik van ‘n taak wat die “n-back” genoem word. Hierdie taak maak staat op die geheue, en behels die vordering tot meer uitdagende vlakke. Die taak word gedoen deur ‘n aflaaibare toepassing (App) op jou selfoon. Ons is tans besig om die program so aan te pas dat dit versoenbaar is met die meeste selfone. Ons sal u kan bystaan om die program toeganklik te maak, indien nodig.

As u graag wil deelneem, sal u die volgende moet doen:

  1. ‘n Siftings- (diagnostiese) onderhoud by Tygerberg Mediese Skool.
  2. Deelname aan 1 sessie by die Departement van Psigiatrie by die Universiteit van Kaapstad waar:
    1. Deelname en prosedures in detail verduidelik sal word,
    2. ‘n Breinskandering van ongeveer 1h30min sal plaasvind (voor die onderrig begin), en
    3. U gevra sal word om vraelyste oor impulsiwiteit, angs, depressie en selfregulering te voltooi.
  3. Deelname aan die “cognitive training”, daagliks, vir 8 weke (d.i. 20 sessies, Maandag tot Vrydag) op die selfoon-toepassing, by die huis.
  4. Die taak sal in detail aan u verduidelik word.
  5. U sal gevra word om daagliks u “telling” aan die navorsers te stuur (via die selfoon-toepassing).
  6. ‘n Breinskandering van ongeveer 1h30min sal plaasvind (na afloop van die 8 weke van opleiding), en
  7. U sal gevra word om ‘n post-kognitiewe opleiding onderhoud by te woon om enige verandering in u simptome, breinskandering, en neurosielkundige funksionering te bespreek.

Sal u betaal word om deel te neem aan die studie en is daar enige onkoste vir u?

Ons sal ’n Pick ‘n Pay koskoepon ter waarde van R150 aan die einde van die 8 weke kognitiewe opleiding aan u verskaf.

Vir meer inligting, kontak:

Prof Christine Lochner 021 – 938 9179, e-pos: cl2@sun.ac.za

Mnr Lian Taljaard 021 – 938 9654, e-pos: liant@sun.ac.za

Cognitive training in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

OCD is a condition that is known to be associated with problematic functioning of certain regions of the brain. One such problem relates to a concept called “working memory”. Working memory is linked to a person’s control over his/her thoughts and behaviour. Research suggests that greater activation of specific parts of the brain is associated with improved working memory, and thus improved self-control. This study involves a simple “brain game” (i.e “cognitive training” with the so-called n-back working memory task) that trains this specific part of the brain, to test whether this method can improve self-control in people with OCD.

 What will your responsibilities be?

In order to participate, you need to have a Smartphone on which the study application will be loaded. If you do not, cognitive training would have to be provided by the UCT Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health on a loan phone which you will be responsible for. You will undergo a comprehensive screening interview with a clinical psychologist to see whether you qualify for participation. The interview also includes the assessment of OCD symptoms and severity.

If you do qualify for participation, you will be asked to do the following things:

  1. Attend a screening procedure at Tygerberg Medical School.
  2. Attend one session at the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at the University of Cape Town where you will:
    1. Have the study procedures explained to you in detail,
    2. Be given a brain scan that will take about 1 ½ hours, and
    3. Be asked to answer questionnaires on impulsivity, anxiety, depression and self-regulation.
  3. Engage in cognitive training (i.e. the n-back working memory task) daily for 8 weeks (i.e. 20 sessions, Monday to Friday) on the Smartphone App at home.
  4. The task will also be fully explained to you by instructions provided on the App. You are required to concentrate and respond at the appropriate moment as explained by the instructions.
  5. You will be required to email your data file to the researcher daily by activating an icon which will be available on the App.
  6. Another brain scan that will take about 1 ½ hours post-training, and
  7. Attend a post-training interview to assess change in your OCD profile, brain scan and change in neuropsychological functioning.

 Will you benefit from taking part in this research?

Based on results from previous research in other psychiatric disorders, we know that it is highly likely that doing brain training in this way will alter the way your brain functions, in a healthy way, so that you can use more self-control to decrease obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour. If this can be proven, your participation will help to increase the number of possible effective treatment options for patients with OCD.

Will you be paid to take part in this study and are there any costs involved?

We will provide a Pick n Pay food voucher to the value of R150 at the end of the 8 week cognitive training period.

If you want more information or want to participate, please contact: Prof Christine Lochner 021 – 938 9179, e-mail: cl2@sun.ac.za or Mr Lian Taljaard 021 – 938 9654, e-mail: liant@sun.ac.za

Projek 5

Kognitiewe opleiding (“cognitive training”) in persone met haar-uittreksteuring (trichotillomanie)

Kognitiewe opleiding is ‘n behandelingsmetode wat fokus op die verbetering van brein-funksies (bv. geheue, aandag, konsentrasie, leer, en beplanning). Daar is bewyse dat die metode van kognitiewe opleiding werksgeheue-vermoë kan verbeter. ‘n Verbetering van werksgeheue kan ‘n positiewe uitwerking hê op ander impulsbeheerprobleme (soos aandagtekort-hiperaktiwiteit versteuring en substansmisbruik). Daar is dus rede om te dink dat kognitiewe opleiding dalk sal kan help vir persone met haar-uittreksteuring (trichotillomanie).

Die studie wil vasstel of kognitiewe opleiding simptome van haar-uittreksteuring (trichotillomanie) kan verminder.

Wat behels deelname?

Die deelnemer word telefonies gekontak en ‘n paar vrae gevra word om te verseker dat sy/haar deelname toepaslik is vir insluiting. Die eerste kontaksessie word dan afgespreek, waartydens die deelnemer ‘n werksgeheue- en impulsbeheertake, asook vraelyste voltooi om elkeen se vlak van funksionering te assesseer voor die behandeling. Tydens die tweede kontaksessie word die deelnemer bekendgestel aan die internet-gebasseerde opleidingsprogram wat hy/sy tydens die volgende 5 weke, by die huis, sal gebruik. Na afloop van die opleiding, word ‘n derde kontaksessie geskeduleer, waartydens die deelnemer dieselfde take en vraelyste sal voltooi om enige verandering in sy/haar simptome en werksgeheue vas te stel. ‘n Vierde kontaksessie word geskeduleer op 3 maande na voltooiing van die behandeling om te kyk of enige veranderinge oor die langtermyn behoue gebly het.

Dele van die kontaksessies sal opgeneem word met ‘n digitale bandopnemer, en die data sal veilig in ‘n wagwoord beskermde elektroniese lêer gestoor word.

Alle deelnemers sal dieselfde toetse kry. Die enigste verskil is dat die helfte van die deelnemers die regte kognitiewe behandelingsprogram sal kry en die ander helfte sal die plasebo opleiding doen.

Wat sal deelnemers se verantwoordelikhede wees?

  • Om al 4 geskeduleerde kontaksessies, met die hoofnavorser, by te woon en ‘n battery van assesserings te voltooi gedurende die sessies. Daar word verwag dat die sessies sowat 2 ure sal neem.
  • Om die internet-gebaseerde kognitiewe opleidingsprogram te voltooi – dit behels 25 sessies, by die huis, oor ’n periode van 5 weke. Die sessies is 30 – 45 minute elk.
  • Om die opleiding in ‘n stil omgewing te doen waar u kan konsentreer.
  • Om gebruik te maak van ‘n elektroniese apparaat, verkieslik ‘n rekenaar of skootrekenaar, wat toegang het tot internet (die hele 5 week program gebruik ongeveer 50Mb data).

Vir meer inligting, kontak:

Me Derine Sandenbergh: 021 940 4449 / 4504; e-pos: Derine.Sandenbergh@westerncape.gov.za

Prof Christine Lochner 021 – 938 9179, e-pos: cl2@sun.ac.za

Cognitive training in patients with hair-pulling disorder (trichotillomania)

Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder or HPD) is a condition in which patients engage in recurrent pulling of hair, resulting in hair loss. The negative impact of HPD should not be underestimated. For example, themes that emerged from reports from HPD patients focus on problematic triggering events, negative affect (isolation, embarrassment and shame, anger and frustration fear, guilt, humiliation and pain, body image issues) and control difficulty (self-disclosure, lack of information from the medical community and lack of control). Patients also live with the constant awareness of the impact their difficulty has on self and others in areas of social, occupational, academic and family functioning. Furthermore, patients may avoid accessing health care services due to feelings of shame, which contributes to delays in treatment seeking, incorrect diagnosis and reduced quality of life.

This intervention study will be conducted at the Psychology Department at Stikland Hospital, Bellville. Initially, 40 participants with a diagnosis of HPD will be recruited.

There will be an intervention called cognitive training. Cognitive training is a treatment method that focuses on improving cognitive functions (e.g. memory, attention, concentration, learning, planning). There is evidence to suggest that this method of cognitive training can increase working memory ability. An increase in working memory ability has shown positive effects on other impulse control difficulties (e.g. attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder and substance abuse), thus there is reason to think that cognitive training may also be effective for treatment of HPD.

Thus, this study aims to assess whether cognitive training can reduce hair-pulling symptoms. To date, available treatments have not shown long-term reduction of symptoms.

Once referred to the study, the participant will be contacted telephonically and asked a few questions to make sure they are appropriate for inclusion to the study. Then a first contact session will be scheduled where the participant will complete working memory and impulse control tasks and questionnaires to assess their level of functioning before treatment. During the second contact session, the participant will be introduced to the internet-based cognitive training program, which he/she will use, at home, during the next 5 weeks. After completion of the training, a third contact session will be scheduled, during which the participant will complete working memory and impulse control tasks and questionnaires to assess change in hair-pulling symptoms and working memory. A fourth contact session will be scheduled 3 months after completion of the training to assess whether the changes were maintained over a longer period.

All participants will get the same tests. The only difference is that half of HPD patients will receive the real cognitive training program, and the other half will do the placebo training.

If you do qualify for participation, you will be asked to do the following things:

  • To attend the 4 contact sessions scheduled with the principle investigator and complete a battery of assessments during the sessions. The sessions will take about 2 hours.
  • To complete the internet-based cognitive training program – this entails 25 sessions, at home, over a period of 5 weeks. The sessions are about 30 – 45 minutes each.
  • To do the training in a quiet environment where you can concentrate.
  • To make use of an electronic device, preferably a computer or laptop, that has access to the internet (the whole 5 week program uses about 50Mb of data).

If you want more information or want to participate, please contact: Ms Derine Sandenbergh: (021) 940 4449 / 4504; e-mail Derine.Sandenbergh@westerncape.gov.za, or Prof Christine Lochner 021 – 938 9179, e-mail: cl2@sun.ac.za

Project 6

International Study on Student Health and Wellness

Adolescents and young adults are at increased risk for mental health problems. This includes, but is not limited to, psychopathologies such as anxiety and mood disorders, substance use and sexual and gender identity disorders. Although in many educational institutions treatment and support services are available, not many students access these. Also, although there is scientific knowledge of current risk factors for mental health problems, there is a lack of evidence-based methods for using this knowledge to identify those at risk and refer them to appropriate services.

This research is part of an international study, headed by Professor Bruffaerts, at Leuven University in Belgium.

This is a four-year longitudinal study at SU and UCT, in which we administer a baseline assessment of lifetime history of risk factors for negative outcomes, such as academic-, mental and health problems to university students during their first year, and then collect follow-up data at the start of each subsequent year (academic years 2-4).

Therefore this collaborative, international research project proposes to examine health and wellness of students at participating institutions and aims to utilize an e-survey to identify (i) university students at risk for mental health problems, (ii) disorders and dysfunctional behaviours that should be targeted by prevention and treatment programs, and (iii) types of mental health / wellness services utilized by students.

If you want more information, please contact: Mrs Janine Roos 021 –  938 9229, e-mail: jroos@sun.ac.za, Prof Christine Lochner 021 – 938 9179, e-mail: cl2@sun.ac.za, or Mr Lian Taljaard 021 – 938 9654, e-mail: liant@sun.ac.za



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Mental Health Topics

In partnership with:

University of Stellenbosch
South African Medical Research Council
University of Cape Town
International Brain Research Organization