Academics at Trinity College Dublin are carrying out a study on brain activity that will also look at coping strategies, self-criticism, and other mental health issues.
Clare Kelly, ussher assistant professor of functional neuroimaging at TCD’s Institute of Neuroscience and the principal investigator on the study, said the team was looking for 30 teenage girls who viewed themselves as having no mental health difficulties, and another 30 teenage girls who viewed themselves as having mental health concerns.
The study will be undertaken at the School of Psychology and Department of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine at TCD and will involve computerised assessments and an MRI scan.
Dr Kelly said the study hoped to look at why some teenagers might be more susceptible to depression and related health issues and what might help in addressing those concerns.
“Those with mental health difficulties — sadness, irritability, feelings of depression — they can think about and respond to difficult things in the world a bit differently,” she said. “We are trying to understand how their brain is processing that.”
She said a level of emotional upheaval was to be expected in a normal adolescence, but it was hoped the study might help in understanding what is different in young people who might go on to have serious difficulties as they get older.
She said people who have already engaged with services would be possible candidates, although anyone taking medication is excluded on the basis that it could affect the results.
Researchers have already contacted counselling support groups, including Crosscare, to advertise the study. The team will also have the use of a ‘mock’ MRI scanner so anyone taking part can get used to the idea of the real MRI scanner which will be used.
“Adolescence is a time when you focus on yourself and you are very self-critical,” Dr Kelly said, referring to coping strategies that could be used to protect mental health. “Now, with selfies and social media, there is the idea that you are always under judgment and that a lot of the time you are under more scrutiny than ever before.”
Participants will be compensated for travel expenses and will receive €20 and a picture (jpg) of their brain.