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Cate Swannell
Med J Aust 2016; 205 (10): 431. || doi: 10.5694/mja16.n2111
Published online: 21 November 2016

Trio of female researchers win research awards

Three health and medical researchers have won 2016 Women in Research Citation Awards from Thomson Reuters IP and Science, and the Australian National University. Dr Alize Ferrari is a research associate for the Psychiatric Epidemiology and Burden of Disease Research (PEABOD) Group based at the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research. She holds affiliate positions with the School of Public Health at the University of Queensland and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Her research investigates the global epidemiology of mental and substance use disorders, the ecological risk factors and outcomes of mental and substance use disorders, and providing technical expertise to national and international mental health epidemiological surveys and burden of disease studies. Dr Annie Lau is a Senior Research Fellow at Macquarie University, leading the Consumer Informatics team which focuses on patients and healthcare consumers. Her research program investigates the impact, design, and science of Information and Communications Technology on consumers, patients and their carers. Her interests lie in e-health, consumer informatics, health service engagement, social computing and human behaviour modelling. Dr Julie Schneider is a lecturer in Work Integrated Learning (WIL) at the Faculty of Health Sciences and an Honorary Associate at the Menzies Centre for Health Policy at The University of Sydney. Her work explores the experiences of hearing impairment and DSI among adult Australians, with particular focus on prevalence, impacts and implications for improved models of service delivery. She is Deputy Chair for the Deafblind International Research Network, an initiative established to promote collaboration between researchers with shared interest in the topic of combined vision and hearing loss.

Online learning helps chemo patients’ attention and memory

Research out of the University of Sydney has shown that chemotherapy patients assigned to an online learning program had less cognitive symptoms immediately following the intervention and at 6 months’ follow-up than those who received standard care. The online program – “Insight from Posit Science” – uses “adaptive exercises targeting processing systems aimed at improving cognition through speed and accuracy of information processing”. It is now available as an internet-based program and accessible at: http://www.brainhq.com/welcome. Up to 70% of cancer patients report cognitive symptoms following chemotherapy. These symptoms have been linked to poorer quality of life and increased depression, anxiety, and fatigue among cancer survivors. The study examined 242 adult cancer patients who had completed three or more cycles of chemotherapy in the previous 5 years, and who self-reported cognitive symptoms, indicated by changes in concentration and/or memory. Of those who participated in the study 89% were women with breast cancer. Participants were assessed on self-reported cognitive function, as measured by the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy Cognitive Function version 3 (FACT-COG) questionnaire; and objective neuropsychological function – as assessed by Cogstate, an 18-minute computerised battery, comprising seven tests evaluating processing speed, decision making, working memory, executive function, continuous performance, matching, and new learning. In other results, the online program group showed significantly lower levels of anxiety, depression and fatigue than the standard care group immediately after treatment, but not at 6 months; there was no difference in quality of life between the groups immediately following the intervention, but the online program group had better quality of life at 6 months; there was no difference on objective neuropsychological function between the comparison groups immediately following the intervention, or at 6 months.

  • Cate Swannell


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