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Mental Health Information Centre - Southern Africa

Research Participants Wanted

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Take a look at some of our exciting new research studies currently underway at the SU/UCT MRC Unit on Risk and Resilience in Mental Disorders.

You can help us

① learn more about specific mental illnesses

② increase public awareness of these conditions

③ reduce stigma that sufferers still experience today

We can help you with

① a comprehensive diagnostic assessment that is cost free

② a discussion of possible treatment options (including participation in treatment trials)

③ an appropriate referral for treatment elsewhere

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 Risk and Resilience in Mental 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 for more information.

 

A study on gambling disorder (GD)

gambling-disorderCompulsive gambling, also called GD, is a condition where people have an uncontrollable urge to keep on gambling even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. Gambling can stimulate the brain’s reward system much like drugs such as alcohol can, leading to addiction. GD is also often associated with depression, substance abuse and dependence, and difficulties with interpersonal relationships, however, the causality or “working” of this condition is not yet fully established. This study includes clinical, genetic, brain imaging, and computerised cognitive assessments. Participation involves attendance of 2 sessions, with the first session comprising 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.

For more information about the study, please contact Prof Christine Lochner on tel: 021 938 9179 or cl2@sun.ac.za

A study on methamphetamine use disorder (MUD)                                              

MUDAddiction to methamphetamine or “tik” is a growing epidemic in the Western Cape, and contributes significantly to the national burden of disease. Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that over-activates the neural reward system so that compulsive behaviours become more prominent. The use of this drug can lead to a decreased ability to sustain attention, and poor performance on verbal memory, motor function, working memory, and processing speed. This study includes clinical, genetic, brain imaging, and computerised cognitive assessments. Participation involves attendance of 2 sessions, with the first session comprising 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.

For more information about the study, please contact Prof Christine Lochner on tel: 021 938 9179 or cl2@sun.ac.za

 


Mental Health Topics

In partnership with:


University of Stellenbosch
South African Medical Research Council
University of Cape Town