Leveraging longitudinal studies to uncover shared underpinnings of adolescent mental health conditions
- Supervisor: Dr Giorgia Michelini (primary) and Dr Margherita Malanchini (secondary)
- Funding: CONACyT
The School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences at Queen Mary is one of the UK’s elite research centres, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). We offer a multi-disciplinary research environment and have approximately 150 PhD students working on projects in the biological and psychological sciences. Our students have access to a variety of research facilities supported by experienced staff, as well as a range of student support services.
The project supervisors are leading experts in applying cognitive, longitudinal and genetic approaches to study risk factors for mental health (GM) and self-regulation and associated outcomes (MM) in large and deeply-phenotyped samples.
Training and development
Our PhD students become part of Queen Mary’s Doctoral College which provides training and development opportunities, advice on funding, and financial support for research. Our students also have access to a Researcher Development Programme designed to help recognise and develop key skills and attributes needed to effectively manage research, and to prepare and plan for the next stages of their career.
Adolescence is a period of particularly high risk for mental health conditions and associated negative outcomes. Current diagnostic practices and treatments typically focus on individual psychiatric diagnoses, such as major depression or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. However, there is increasing recognition that people typically present with multiple psychiatric conditions at any given time, likely because different conditions have common underpinnings that cut across diagnostic categories (i.e., they are trans-diagnostic) (Michelini et al., 2019 Transl Psychiatry; 2021 Clin Psychol Rev). Focusing research efforts on shared underpinnings across mental health conditions, particularly during a high-risk period like adolescence, holds great potential for the development of new treatments and strategies to promote wellbeing in a greater number of individuals.
An emerging cognitive process that appears affected in most mental health disorders is self-regulation, the ability to control behaviours and internal states against conflicting or distracting situations, drives, or impulses (Malanchini et al., 2019 J Pers Soc Psychol). Harnessing trans-diagnostic, longitudinal and ‘big data’ approaches, the current project will aim to elucidate the role of self-regulation in the development of mental health problems in adolescence. First, a meta-analysis will provide a quantitative synthesis on the association between self-regulation and psychiatric conditions (Aim 1). Next, data from multiple large longitudinal samples of adolescents from different countries will provide excellent statistical power to clarify longitudinal relationships between self-regulation and mental health problems throughout adolescence (Aim 2). Finally, genetic information will be leveraged to test whether self-regulation mediates the association between psychiatric genetic risk and the emergence of mental health problems in adolescence (Aim 3).
By elucidating the association between self-regulation and a wide-range of mental health conditions, this project will identify mechanistically-informed, scalable and clinically-translatable targets for the development of new treatments and strategies to promote adolescent mental health and wellbeing.
This studentship is open to Mexican students applying for CONACyT funding. CONACyT will provide a contribution towards your tuition fees each year and Queen Mary will waive the remaining fee. CONACyT will pay a stipend towards living costs to its scholars.
Eligibility and applying
Applicants are required to provide evidence of their English language ability. Please see our English language requirements page for details.
Applicants will need to complete an online application form by this date to be considered, including a CV, personal statement and qualifications. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for a formal interview by the project supervisor. Those who are successful in their application for our PhD programme will be issued with an offer letter which is conditional on securing a CONACyT scholarship (as well as any academic conditions still required to meet our entry requirements).
Once applicants have obtained their offer letter from Queen Mary they should then apply to CONACyT for the scholarship as per their requirements and deadlines, with the support of the project supervisor.
Only applicants who are successful in their application to CONACyT can be issued an unconditional offer and enrol on our PhD programme.
- Michelini, G., Barch, D. M., Tian, Y., Watson, D., Klein, D. N., & Kotov, R. (2019). Delineating and validating higher-order dimensions of psychopathology in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. Translational psychiatry, 9(1), 261. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-019-0593-4
- Michelini, G., Palumbo, I. M., DeYoung, C. G., Latzman, R. D., & Kotov, R. (2021). Linking RDoC and HiTOP: A new interface for advancing psychiatric nosology and neuroscience. Clinical psychology review, 86, 102025. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2021.102025
- Malanchini, M., Engelhardt, L. E., Grotzinger, A. D., Harden, K. P., & Tucker-Drob, E. M. (2019). "Same but different": Associations between multiple aspects of self-regulation, cognition, and academic abilities. Journal of personality and social psychology, 117(6), 1164–1188. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000224
- Malanchini, M., Engelhardt, L. E., Raffington, L. A., Sabhlok, A., Grotzinger, A. D., Briley, D. A., Madole, J. W., Freis, S. M., Patterson, M. W., Harden, K. P., & Tucker-Drob, E. M. (2021). Weak and uneven associations of home, neighborhood, and school environments with stress hormone output across multiple timescales. Molecular psychiatry, 26(9), 4823–4838. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-020-0747-z
- Michelini, G., Eley, T. C., Gregory, A. M., & McAdams, T. A. (2015). Aetiological overlap between anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity symptom dimensions in adolescence. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines, 56(4), 423–431. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12318