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Barbara Dicker Brain Sciences Foundation

Responding to a critical societal need

The Barbara Dicker Brain Sciences Foundation has been established by Mr Ian Dicker AM and his family to honour the memory of his late wife Barbara Dicker. The mission of the Barbara Dicker Brain Sciences Foundation is to contribute to the wellbeing of individuals and communities by supporting research in the areas of dementia, depression and sleep disorders. One in two people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. At least one in five people are currently experiencing a mental health problem. In the developed world, the burden of mental health disorders is now overtaking that of physical health disorders.

Better mental health through applied collaborative research

With the generous support of the Dicker family, Swinburne is establishing Australia's first multidisciplinary mental health institute. It encompasses a range of applied biological, psychological and social research methodologies and collaborations with a broad range of enabling disciplines from the faculties of Life and Social Sciences, Engineering and Industrial Sciences, Information and Communication Technologies and Design.

Swinburne's research capacities in the mental health area encompass basic research, from cellular and genetic science all the way through to brain and behavioural sciences, with the aim of understanding cognitive, biological and contextual influences on behaviour and health. We focus on the translation of basic research findings into applications to improve the wellbeing of individuals, groups and the community.

Become involved

If you are interested in supporting the work of the Barbara Dicker Brain Sciences Foundation or would like to understand more about what we do, please contact the Alumni and Development team.

03 9214 8705

You can make a donation to help support the work of the Foundation.

Funded Projects


Researchers Area Summary

Banagan, Skues, Theiler, & Bates


Early detection and intervention techniques for young people at-risk for developing anxiety and depression through excessive use of Facebook

Bhar & Ciorciari


A comparison of brain changes associated with two different approaches to treating hopelessness in elderly people: recalling past successes in life versus performing an activity that provides feelings of success.

Ciorciari, Rossell & Goodin (student)


Using the neuroimaging techniques of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and MRI spectroscopy in conjunction with electroencephalography (EEG) to look at the emotional and behavioural brain functions and neurological health in depression.

Ciorciari, Silberstein, White & Farnbach

Dementia & Depression

Using memory tasks, mood measures and MRI spectroscopy measuring changes in brain chemistry (N-acetylaspartate or NAA) to assess the effects of neurofeedback treatment in healthy participants and clinical groups with depression or dementia.

Crewther, Lamblin, Mayes & Hughes


Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to investigate the neural processes of Attention Sharing in people with high & low autistic tendency.

Wood, Anderson, Diaz-Trujillo


Cellular changes in rat brain cells following exposure to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation waves.

Pipingas, Stough & Scholey


Investigating the effects of supplementation with Bacopa Monniera on cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients

Klein, Abbott, Nyguyen, Kyrios , Murray, Smith &Shields

Sleep disorder

Development of an online treatment program for insomnia.

Notarianni, Klein & Kyrios


Evaluation of a fully automated internet-based psychological treatment for depression


Researchers Area Summary

Batty, Rossell, O’Connor & Woods


Using magnetoencephalography (MEG) and structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to examine semantic memory networks in healthy brains as a way of understanding degenerative dementias, as well as understanding potential gender-based distinctions.

Bhar, Cox (student), Parker


The aim of the present study is to investigate the effectiveness of a range of cognitive and behavioural interventions for reducing suicidal ideation and depression in young people.

Bhar & Salomon


The project will investigate the use of computer-generated virtual environments (VEs), sometimes referred to as ‘virtual worlds’ or ‘immersive environments’, to facilitate reminiscence therapy in an attempt to help older patients cope with the challenges of early stage dementia.

Hughes, Rossell, Woods, Thomas, Batty & Lancaster


Using magnetoencephalography (MEG) to study auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia, major depression and health controls.

Kyrios, Hughes, Woods, Jiang (student)


Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to identify specific brain areas used in excessive moral reasoning by patients with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) presenting with aggressive, sexual and religious obsessions. The study will contribute to understanding the neural basis of excessive moral reasoning, and may form the basis of more specialized treatments for OCD and populations with deficient moral reasoning.

Liley, Kyrios, Woods, Kuhlmann & Moulding


The aim of this project is to characterize alterations in brain activity, recorded using magnetoencephalography (MEG), that occur in participants suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) compared to a group of healthy individuals free of any mental illness. It is hoped that the subsequently identified patterns can be used as a guide for categorizing brain activity recorded in participants suffering from major depression to determine to what extent anxiety may be caused by, or separate from, the depressive illness.

Moulding, Hughes, Nedeljkovic, Kyrios, Bhar


This study will undertake genetic, brain imaging, cognitive and psychological assessment pre- and post- treatment to ascertain what predicts treatment outcome and what changes with treatment in people with compulsive hoarding.

Rossell, Bailey (student), Neill, Goodin & Ciorciari


The overall aim of this project is to compare the cognitive performance of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and healthy controls using a cognitive battery.

Rossell, Nibbs, Neill, de Zubicaray, Jowett & Rosenblatt (student)


Determine the role of specific brain regions and genes on semantic memory (i.e., knowledge of objects and concepts) which is an important cognitive process that has been shown to be deficient in both psychiatric and neurological conditions.


Researchers Area Summary

Critchley, Bruce, Murray, Bates, Bhar & Elphinstone (student)


Monitoring anxiety & depression in the Australian population over time: The development of an annual national Anxiety & Depression Monitor. The project will develop a national, annual telephone survey that will provide an indicator of the level of depression and anxiety in the Australian population over time. The survey will allow for international comparisons.

Beaudry, Sivasubramaniam & Bhar


Overcoming Obstacles in the Public Mental Health System: An Investigation of Increased Engagement by People with Depression. The project will deliver a laboratory-based test of the relationship between respectful provider-patient interactions and the subsequent persistence of patients to pursue treatment. The outcomes of the research will provide significant insights in how to manage patients who are prone to disengage prematurely from accessing or staying in treatment.

Keating, Rossell, Castle & Newton

Depression & Anorexia

A multimodal neuroimaging investigation of social rejection in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Anorexia. Using cutting edge neuroimaging techniques, combined with 'realistic' simulated social interactions, the study will examine how social experiences are represented in patients with depression and anorexia and in healthy controls. The study will provide greater insights into one of the core features of depression and possibly anorexia, i.e. the reduced capacity to experience pleasure from social interactions.

Kyrios, Sterling, Lopez, Vasa, Pedell & Abbott

Sleep disorders

Supportive technology for monitoring sleep disorders. A previous BDBSF grant led to the development of an online treatment for insomnia (Sleep-e) that focuses on mood/cognition & lifestyle factors and personal experience of sleep quality. This project will develop and conduct an initial evaluation of a phone "app" adapting components of the online treatment.

Abbott, Murray, Klein, Meaklim (student), Kennedy

Sleep disorders

Evaluation of Sleep-e: an online treatment program for insomnia. Having completed the development and usability testing of an online treatment program for sleep disorders (Sleep-e), funded previously by BDBDF, this study will evaluate its effectiveness for people with insomnia.

Nedeljkovic, Kyrios & Fitzpatrick (student)

Depression & Hoarding

Pilot evaluation of an online treatment program for hoarding disorder: The role of co-morbid MDD & depression symptom severity on outcome. Research indicates very high rates of depression (60%) among people with hoarding disorder. However, little is known about the effect of depression on treatment outcomes, engagement & adherence in hoarding disorder. This project will examine the role of depression in predicting response to face-to-face psychological treatment of HD, as well as a supplemental online intervention designed to improve long-term outcomes for people with HD who have not responded to initial face-to-face psychological treatment.

Pfeifer & Oliva


Responding to Depression & Self-Harm in Young Offenders: Integrating Technology in Correctional Environments. Research on young offenders indicates that those incarcerated for the first time are highly likely to experience significant fear and stress often culminating in depression, self-harm, and suicide ideation. Little is provided to newly-arrived inmates to assist them in dealing with their fears and concerns during the first days of their incarceration. This project aims to develop and provide these young offenders with access to a technology-based I-Pad module (that includes information and guidance regarding their incarceration) to assist them in coping with their situation. It is expected that the online program will lead to lower levels of depression, self-harm, and suicide ideation.

Bhar, McGibbon (student) & Sivakumaran

Depression & Dementia

Training inpatient nursing staff to provide evidence-based psychological care to older patients with anxiety, depression and dementia. Nurses working in inpatient units are in a pivotal position to provide assessment and support to inpatients in the areas of depression, anxiety and dementia. This research has three aims:
(a) to identify the current skills of mental health nurses staff in an acute psychogeriatric inpatient unit, and the interest amongst nurses for training in psychological support;
(b) to develop and run a training program for inpatient mental health nurses, focusing on improving their approach and practical skills with inpatients in psychological support; and
(c) to evaluate the feasibility and outcomes of this program for nurses in delivering psychological care.

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