Cookies: How we use information on our website:

We use cookies on our website to make it clear, useful and reliable.In order to achieve this and to provide certain personalised features we store a small amount of data about you. To learn more visit Cookies: How we use the information on our website. By navigating from the front page to other sections of our website, you are consenting to information being stored.

NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre logo

3-minute Thesis Presentations

three minute thesis dementia

Main conference page

Presentation slides and transcripts / abstracts for the 3-minute thesis competition can be viewed below in programme running order .  Click on image to view a PDF version of the presenter's slide.

Sophie Fawson

Sophie Fawson Department of Psychology - Health Psychology, King's College London PhD Year 1

In the UK, breast cancer effects approximately 55,000 new women each year. Due to detection and treatment improvements, survival rates have doubled in the last 40 years. However, even survivors, those who have been treated with curative primary treatment still experience ongoing physical and psychological challenges.  Distress is prevalent in these women, with estimates of 15-40% experiencing distress. The period of time after primary treatment is particularly important as patients can feel uncertain due to medical contact ending, individuals are working towards getting back to their pre cancer lives and some have fears around recurrence. Distress has also been found to be associated with increased healthcare use and poorer outcomes.  These women can also experience physical symptoms, particularly those receiving ongoing hormone therapy for recurrence risk reduction. Hormone therapy is prescribed to oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer which makes up 70% of all breast cancers. Side effects to this treatment include joint pain, menopausal symptoms, and fatigue and can be particularly problematic. These symptoms are often associated with distress.

So, what do we know? Distress is prevalent, physical symptoms are common and can be difficult, so what can be done about it?  That’s where my PhD comes in. The wider aim of my PhD is to help women with breast cancer manage their distress and physical symptoms.  In order to address this, I am conducting several different studies informed by health psychological theoretical models of distress and previous research, to help develop an appropriate, evidence-based intervention.  Using a mixed methods approach, the studies will explore psychological factors based on cognitive behavioural models (focusing on the relationship between thoughts, behaviours and emotions and in therapy, how to disrupt these unhelpful cycles) and more third wave approaches such as the psychological flexibility model, used in acceptance and commitment therapy, which aims for a willingness to experience thoughts, rather than trying to change them, whilst pursuing meaningful valued life. There are a number of studies focusing on cognitive behavioural elements in cancer, so this PhD will focus more on this gap in the literature by exploring the psychological flexibility factors.

A systematic review will determine the evidence base for these psychological flexibility components associated with distress in cancer patients whilst a qualitative study will explore more of an understanding of acceptance and these factors, what these mean for breast cancer patients and how patients feel they manage their distress and symptoms. Longitudinal studies will determine how cognitive behavioural and psychological flexibility factors are associated with distress and experience of physical symptoms, whether they predict later distress and whether they mediate the relationship between symptoms and distress.  These studies together will inform the adaptation of an existing mobile app-based intervention. The results may indicate that targeting management of symptoms, creating a different way to have relationships with thoughts around this area could then reduce distress. It may be that an integrated model is developed in order to inform the self-management app-based intervention.  Patients will be involved throughout and take a key role in the intervention development.

To summarise, the studies of this PhD will help build a model of distress and managing symptoms to develop an intervention to help women with breast cancer on hormonal therapy.

Florian Hansen

Florian Hansen Department of Psychology, King's College London PhD Year 1

Schizophrenia is a diagnosis associated with severe disability. It is most commonly characterised by the positive symptoms associated with it.  It should be noted here that in psychology positive means something being added, while negative means something is taken away.  Positive symptoms are most commonly hallucinations, such as hearing voices no-one else hears, and/or delusions, distressing beliefs that are unrealistic and in contrast to societal norms.  The contemporary negative symptom construct consists of 2 clusters. The first is a motivation & pleasure cluster, that can be divided into lack of goal-directed behaviour, lack of interest in social relationships, and being unable to see joy happening in one’s future. The second is an expressive cluster that can be subdivided into poverty of speech, may it be in amount of words, or concrete content, and a reduction in emotional expression through facial expressions, intonation and/or gestures.  As you might already suspect, it is these symptoms that are often leading to disability.  Schizophrenia is very costly. England alone, they are estimated at £18 billion per year, which equates to roughly £350 million a week. I provided a visual aid to help you imagine that much money. It should be noted here that 3 quarters of those costs are due to productivity loss, most of which is due to negative symptoms.  While most positive symptoms can be successfully treated or at least controlled, negative symptoms however remain barely treatable, if at all and research into treatment is advancing slowly.  This might be due to the available measurements of Negative Symptoms which are at at best lengthy, costly and still have various problems associated with them. There are also computerized measures, but they are not very popular or engaging.  Don’t get me wrong, some modern tests are quite good at measuring NS, but they are simply not feasible for mass implementation among the NHS, may it be due to inaccuracies, costs or the willingness of service users to engage with them.  In contrast, an optimal measure would be relatively cheap, at least semi- automated and therefore relatively objective. Moreover, it should reflect on how symptoms are occurring during everyday life, and the measuring process itself should relate to how symptoms occur.  This is also known as ecological validity. Finally, service users should like the measure and want to engage with it.  Here is where we get to virtual reality. The technology is popular among service users and has become cheap enough for the mass market. VR at roomscale, as in you can move through it and interact with it, is hard to explain, as it is a full experience from a visual, auditory, and partially tactile sense. In short, VR allow us to create life-like, but completely controlled, simulated 3D environments. This allows measuring of complex behaviour in response to complex stimuli, or in our case the level of absence of it.  My research adapts already validated experimental paradigms to measure NS for use within virtual reality. The idea is that participants are asked to engage in everyday activities, while their behaviour is recorded. After a prototype was developed it will get tested by diagnosed service users and their feedback will be used to improve the measure and to make it more acceptable. Then, the final version will be tested by more people, including healthy controls, and their scores will be compared against traditional measures to ensure we are actually measuring NS.

Timothy Lawn

Timothy (Tim) Lawn Department of Neuroimaging, King's College London PhD Year 1

You are your brain. Everything you think, experience, and perceive is the result of some complex emergent process arising from the 1.5kg lump of tissue inside your skull. It is often said that we all see the world differently. Pain is similarly diverse; it is a unique experience shaped by each persons prior experiences and genetics.  What affects your brain can affect pain. Being cut with a scalpel hurts a lot less while you’re under anaesthesia. A toothache is unbearable whilst lying awake at night but barely noticeable when you’re chatting with friends. When you’re scared for your life, you can run on a broken ankle. Drugs, cognition, and context all work through changing pain processing within your brain.  Neurodegeneration, which can result from common disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, profoundly impacts the normal function of the brain. This includes these same circuits that process pain.  This is important because, despite us thinking about Alzheimer’s as a disease affecting memory, and Parkinson’s as a disease affecting movement, a large number of these patients also suffer from chronic pain and this has a massive impact on their lives. Patients with Parkinson's often rank pain as one of their most troublesome symptoms, and in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, difficulty expressing and contextualising pain can be misattributed to behavioural or psychiatric issues.  At this point, you may be wondering why these patients suffer from chronic pain? It seems that it is partly due to the way pain circuits are affected by neurodegeneration resulting in pain being processed and experienced differently. For example, both these patient groups show increased levels of pain in response to painful stimuli. Crucially, because drugs that are used to treat pain work by acting on some of these brain circuits, this may mean that they do not work the same in these patients. However, nobody has really tested this idea yet.  My PhD project aims to use functional neuroimaging to look at how these patients brains are processing pain differently and to see whether giving them a pain relieving opioid drug produces different effects on their brains. Currently there are no treatment guidelines for pain in either of these disorders, despite this being a huge clinically unmet need and I hope that research like mine will help open the door for evidence based treatment of pain for these patients.

Jess Mundy

Jessica (Jess) Mundy Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre, King's College London PhD Year 1

Major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder are grouped together as “mood disorders”.  Major depressive disorder is classified by persistent low mood and “anhedonia” (this term refers to an inability to experience usual joy and pleasure in daily activities).  Bipolar disorder is divided into two types: bipolar disorder type I and type II. Bipolar disorder I is characterised by the presence of something known as “mania”. Lots of people mistakenly associate mania with feelings of intense joy and happiness, but mania is actually very different to this, and can involve symptoms such as inflated self-esteem, racing thoughts and concentration difficulties. Somebody experiencing mania might engage in reckless or impulsive behaviour, such as spending a great deal of money in one go. This is why mania is much more problematic than simply feeling extremely happy.  So, mania is present in bipolar type I, but what about type II? In type II, we see something known as “hypomania”. “Hypo” means “under” or “below” in Latin, so hypomania refers to a less intense form of mania. Hearing this, you might wonder why hypomania is considered a problem for mental health? Well, in bipolar type II, the individual also experiences depressive episodes, and it is this fluctuation from a depressive to hypomanic state which is extremely difficult to manage.  Mood disorders bring with them high rates of associated diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. Additionally, they are associated with high levels of mortality (which means “death rate”) due to the proportion of affected individuals who commit suicide.  For these reasons, understanding the causes of mood disorders is crucial for developing effective treatments which will (hopefully) profoundly improve people’s lives.  It is already well known that risk for developing major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder are, to some extent, influenced the DNA you inherit from your parents. No single gene exists which causes mood disorders. Rather, a combination of hundreds of thousands of genetic variants increases a person’s risk. You can think of these “genetic variants” as tiny puzzle pieces that make up our entire DNA sequence. Since there are hundreds of thousands of these puzzle pieces, the journey towards understanding the genetic basis for mood disorders is rather complicated. However, studying which puzzle pieces are found in the DNA of affected individuals is a good place to start. This is the main aim of my thesis.  My research will involve participants who have signed up to the Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression study (also known as GLAD) and the UK Biobank study. GLAD is considered a clinical study, since all participants have experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression, whereas the UK Biobank is considered a population study, since it involves people recruited directly from the UK population, irrespective of their mental health.  Participants in both studies have provided lots of information, through answering online questionnaires, about their past and current psychiatric symptoms. They also provided a saliva sample. This will allow me to specifically study participants who have experienced major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder by analysing the DNA from their saliva sample.

Suzanne O'Brien

Suzanne O'Brien Department of Forensic & Neurodevelopmental Science, King’s College London PhD Year 1

Conduct problems (CP) are characterised by repetitive and persistent patterns of antisocial behaviour in children. There are several factors that modulate the severity of CP and one factor is the presence of callous-unemotional (CU) traits. Those with high levels of CU traits for example will exhibit more severe CP, lack of empathy, lack of guilt, commit violent crimes at a younger age etc., and this sub-group is thought to be at increased risk for developing psychopathy in adulthood. We also know that children with CP have abnormalities in brain regions such as the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Currently the only treatment available for children with CP is group parenting programs, and the gold standard parenting program in the UK is known as the ‘ Incredible Years’ . During this 14-week program, parents learn new parenting strategies to help manage their child’s behaviour. However, nobody has examined whether these behavioural changes that occur as a result from the parenting program are associated with brain changes. Therefore, in Study 1: Eighty boys between the ages of 5-10 years underwent MRI scans and assessments of antisocial behaviour, before and after their parents took part in the Incredible Years parenting intervention. The aim is to determine if differences in brain anatomy and function can:

a) change in parallel with reduced antisocial behaviour; b) predict behavioural alteration.

However, about 40% of children do not respond to parenting programs - mainly those with high levels of CU traits. Therefore, there is a critical unmet need for research to develop new effective treatments for this subgroup of children.

And that is where Study 2 comes in: Recent research has shown that children with high CU traits have reduced activity in their oxytocin system compared to those with low CU traits. This is important as oxytocin has diverse positive effects on prosocial behaviour. Therefore the aim is to conduct a pilot f MRI study to test the hypothesis that, compared to placebo, a ‘single dose’ of intranasal oxytocin can temporarily ‘shift’ abnormal neural processing towards ‘normal’, in a group of high CU boys vs. low CU boys who previously did not respond to the parenting program . If we find evidence that oxytocin can regulate abnormal neural processing in high CU children, then it could form the basis of research into a therapeutic intervention for this subgroup of children - who there is currently no treatment for.

Abigail ter Kuile

Abigail ter Kuile Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry, King's College London PhD Year 1

Anxiety and mood disorders are common, debilitating and difficult to treat. Anxiety disorders are characterised by excessive fear and anxiety, accompanied by impairing features such as avoidance behaviours, physical anxiety reactions and panic attacks. Specific clusters of symptoms differentiate one anxiety disorder from the other across the anxiety disorder spectrum, including generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobia and social phobia. The mood disorder spectrum includes depression, characterised by persistent sadness, and the reduced ability to experience pleasure. It is often experienced for extensive periods, becoming either chronic or recurrent, and contributes to a large proportion of suicide. Depressive episodes are also prevalent in rarer mood disorders, notably bipolar disorder, which also presents with periods of abnormal elevated mood, which is more severe in bipolar type II than bipolar type I. These disorders often overlap, with many people experiencing different types of both anxiety and mood disorders. Responses to existing treatments are varied and are prescribed in a trial and error fashion. To improve the prevention and treatment of these disorders, a better understanding of their risk factors is needed.  Decades of research has shown that the risk of having anxiety and mood disorders is influenced by genetics. We now know that it is not a small number of genes that contribute to this risk, but hundreds and thousands of variations of genes that each increase the risk by a small effect. To find these thousands of risk genes, very large sample sizes are needed. My thesis will use the Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) study – the largest single study in the world of anxiety and depression. Data from this study will be used to address four questions. To what extent do the genetics of anxiety and mood disorder subtypes differ? If so, which genes are different? What do these genes do? Could these genes explain why anxiety and mood disorder subtypes differ in their symptoms?  Although genetics play an important part in the development of anxiety and mood disorders, the environment is also an important factor. Severely stressful traumatic experiences are well-established risk factors for anxiety and mood disorders. Although primarily recognised as an environmental exposure, self-reporting trauma is partly genetically influenced. This may reflect genetic factors influencing exposure to environmental stressors. However, it may also reflect the genetics of traits that make someone perceive and remember an event as stressful, and the willingness to report potentially stigmatising events. This thesis explores the behavioural traits that contribute to the genetic component of self-reporting trauma.  However, only a portion of those who report trauma have an anxiety or mood disorder. Some people may carry a greater genetic risk to respond to the negative effects of traumatic experiences. This interaction between the environment and genetic vulnerability may explain why those with a higher genetic risk to anxiety and mood disorders will present with symptoms when exposed to trauma. This thesis will aim to identify the thousands of genes that interact with traumatic experiences that increase the risk of developing anxiety and mood disorders.

Lizzy Tuudah

Lizzy Tuudah Department of Health Services & Population Research, King’s College London PhD Year 1

Individuals with severe mental illness (SMI (e.g. schizophrenia)) are at a 2-fold risk of developing diabetes and experience a reduced life expectancy by approximately 10 to 15 years compared to the general population. People with SMI and type 2 diabetes are also less likely to receive essential healthcare that could help reduce preventable diabetes complications such as stroke, lower-limb amputation, and blindness. This population are also more likely to experience financial poverty, low educational levels and social stigma which act as barriers to access services to prevent and improve illness. These health inequalities are ethical and economic issues that must be addressed.  There are a limited number of integrated non-pharmacological interventions that have been designed to improve both type 2 diabetes and SMI which have had varying degrees of success in improving diabetes-related and mental health outcomes. A lack of integrated physical and mental healthcare and interventions adds to this problem. This study aims to address this.  Understanding service-user and staff experiences of care are key to improve the weakness and enhance the strengths of healthcare. My study will use the experienced-based co-design (EBCD) approach which involves bringing together service-users, carers, and staff in a series of events using a 6-stage cycle. Observations of daily practice at the healthcare service and video and/or audio recorded individual interviews of service-users, carers and staff will be conducted. Service-users and carers interviews will be edited into a trigger film that highlights “touchpoints” which are positive or negative emotions throughout participant’s care experience. Participants view the trigger film and power imbalances between service-users and staff are shifted by encouraging participants to reflect on the touchpoints identified. Participants then agree on the priority areas of improvement and then form co-design teams to develop the intervention(s) to improve the challenges identified in the trigger film. A celebration event is held to review and share the success of the participant’s work which is also shared with wider members of the trust.  This study aims to assess if it is feasible, acceptable, and effective to use the EBCD approach to implement an intervention to improve the care of people with type 2 diabetes and SMI. If successfully applied, the EBCD approach could provide a genuine voice for this population who disproportionately experience health inequalities and encourage a positive shift to improve both service-user experience and staff wellbeing.

Nathan Huneke

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorder, with an estimated 12-month prevalence of 14% (Wittchen et al., 2011). The ‘ideal treatment’ for anxiety does not exist. Many patients do not respond to first-line treatment, and psychological treatments are limited in availability while medications can cause unwanted side-effects. New treatments are needed to improve effectiveness and side-effect profiles. Placebo-controlled studies are necessary to test novel anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) treatments. However, placebo treatment can also produce significant clinical improvement, which has important implications for the design and interpretation of clinical trials in anxiety disorders. The placebo response is thought to result from an interplay between prior expectations and learning that leads to activation of ‘top-down’ control systems that regulate incoming sensory information. The ‘top-down’ neurobiological systems involved in placebo analgesia have been studied extensively and are known to include the endogenous opioid system (Petrie and Rief, 2019). However, the neurobiology of placebo anxiolysis is largely unexplored, possibly owing to a lack of convenient experimental paradigms.  Through this PhD, I aim to improve our understanding of the neurobiology of placebo anxiolysis. Using the well-established 7.5% CO 2 inhalational experimental medicine model of generalised anxiety (Garner et al., 2011), I plan to develop a novel conditioning procedure to induce placebo anxiolysis in healthy volunteers. Subsequently, I aim to test the hypothesis that the endogenous opioid system mediates placebo anxiolysis. I will carry out a randomised trial of the opioid antagonist naltrexone in this conditioning procedure. Finally, I aim to understand whether the endogenous opioid system is important in anxiety regulation more generally and therefore a possible therapeutic target. I will assess the effects of opioid blockade on cortical activity measured through functional magnetic resonance imaging in healthy volunteers during implicit anxiety processing and during an explicit anxiety reappraisal task.  The present project has the potential to provide a step-change in our understanding of placebo anxiolysis, and of the neurobiology of ‘top-down’ anxiety regulation. My novel placebo anxiolytic procedure will be the first to use a validated experimental medicine model of clinical anxiety. If successful, this procedure will allow the interrogation of further hypotheses regarding placebo anxiolysis to improve our understanding of the mechanisms involved. Additionally, if we find evidence that regulation of anxiety is opioid-dependent, this would suggest that the endogenous opioid system is potentially a tractable therapeutic target.

Becki Green

Rebecca (Becki) Green Department of Basic & Clinical Neurosciences, King’s College London PhD Year 2

50 million people currently live with dementia; this stark statistic highlights the global urgency of further research into this area. We know that genetic and environmental/lifestyle risk factors play a role in the development of dementia, and that these extend from early life, with factors such as cognitive ability in childhood showing remarkable enduring impact. Previous research has also highlighted a period before diagnosis where disease mechanisms are accumulating, presenting as a great opportunity to intervene, but how do we identify individuals in this period?  Well, using studies that have followed individuals over a long period, we can identify early indicators such as biological markers preceding diagnosis, for which metabolites present as a promising candidates. Metabolites, such as fatty acids and amino acids, are the products of biological events and are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, providing a unique snapshot into the health status of the individual. They are also easily accessible and potentially modifiable, demonstrating potential for clinical use.  We aimed to investigate whether metabolites could be valuable markers of early changes relevant to dementia and evaluate whether these associations are influenced by life course factors. This work could help reveal early disease mechanisms, identify those at risk and guide interventions.  To do this, we used the 1946 British birth cohort study; a large, well-characterised cohort with rare information ranging from early life to other life course measures such as diet and exercise. We then measured all metabolites able to be captured (roughly 1000 metabolites) in 1800 participants in late midlife and looked at whether they were associated with several measures relevant to early dementia. Examples of these measures include brain scans and cognitive tests measured at the same time point as well as 5-9 years later. To capture the effects of metabolites and the relationships between them, we used multiple analytical designs to identify single metabolites, metabolite pathways (such as glucose metabolism) and groups of similarly expressed metabolites that were associated with our outcomes.  Integrating these analyses, we honed in on the most important metabolites that are likely to be key drivers in these pathways and groups. Finally, we looked at biological functions to understand potential disease mechanisms.  Once we identified these metabolites and metabolite groups, we explored whether any associations were related to life course factors. In this regard, we identified some metabolites, such as a particular class of lipids, that appear to be entirely explained by early life education, suggesting a potential mechanism by which these early influences may embed biologically. We also identified a group that were independent of all known risk factors, and honed in on a highly influential metabolite, indicating a candidate for further study.  We will next seek to understand whether these relationships are also disease causing using statistical genetics techniques. If this is the case, then they may be useful for diagnosis and intervention. Finally, we will interrogate whether our findings are able to accurately predict individuals that go on to experience dementia; this will further establish whether they may show utility as markers of early dementia.

Danielle Huisman

My thesis is called: “Exploring biopsychosocial mechanisms of abdominal pain in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD for short) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS for short).”  IBD is the group name for crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. It is an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and as such has a clear biological cause. Its dominant symptom is abdominal pain.  People with IBD are likely to have periods of inactive disease but may not experience relief from their abdominal pain during these periods. This will be the focus of my thesis. Both because abdominal pain impairs quality of life in IBD, and because abdominal pain that isn’t associated with inflammation poses a real clinical challenge. We need to learn how to manage it better.  I explore if ongoing abdominal pain in IBD may be explained by mechanisms thought to underly IBS - there seems to be overlap between the two conditions (as you can see on my slide), and chronic abdominal pain in IBD is frequently classified as IBS.

Just like with IBD, people with IBS struggle with abdominal pain. However, the disorder is considered to be medically unexplained, meaning that it there seems to be no underlying disease causing it.  IBS is commonly explained by dysregulations in pain processing. Pain isn’t actually experienced at the location where tissue damage or inflammation occurs. That’s the trigger. Information on whatever is happening locally is transduced and transmitted to the brain where it is perceived and interpreted. The brain gives us information about the location of the pain, the modality of the pain, the intensity of the pain, and the discomfort the pain poses.  The brain not only receives information but also signals back to lower areas involved in pain perception. This feedback serves to modulate the pain, usually to tone it down. In IBS this feedback process is thought to be impaired. Furthermore, it is believed that brain areas involved in processing emotions and cognitions influence feedback pathways, which is why psychological factors, such as anxiety and depression, may influence pain perception. Hence the biopsychosocial model.

To investigate the relevance of the model in IBD, I carry out experiments assessing disrupted pain processing and explore associations between psychological factors and these experimental measures.

Finally, in an interview study I assess support for the model by asking people with IBD how they make sense of abdominal pain during inactive disease and how they see IBS in relation to their IBD.

Jonathan Rogers

Catatonia: Demographic, Clinical and Laboratory Associations in a Large Dataset

Objectives / Aims:  Catatonia is an important neuropsychiatric disorder with a high morbidity and mortality. However, due to a perception that it is very infrequent and because of the acuity of the patients, it has remained poorly studied and research has often been confined to small groups. We hypothesised that: catatonia would remain a significant clinical problem; catatonic patients would have a longer duration of admission and higher mortality; serum iron would be reduced, reflecting a systemic inflammatory response, and high rates of NMDA receptor antibody serum positivity would be observed.

Methods:   This was a prospective cohort study that included patients in a large mental health trust who were diagnosed with catatonia between 2007 and 2016. We used the Clinical Records Interactive Search (CRIS) system hosted at the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre to search the clinical records for patients with catatonia. An initial free-text search was refined by use of a natural language processing app. The results of the app were validated by three of the authors, who included patients in the analysis only if a clinician had made a diagnosis of catatonia and two or more items of the Bush-Francis Catatonia Screening Instrument were in evidence. Demographic, clinical and blood-based markers could then be extracted for these patients and compared, where relevant, to non-catatonic psychiatric patients.

Results:  1,456 patients with catatonia (of whom 787 were psychiatric inpatients) and 37,456 psychiatric inpatient controls were identified. There was no evidence for a reduction in the rate of catatonia over time. Patients with catatonia were younger than the controls by 2.52 years (95% CI 1.30 to 3.73) and similar in gender composition. Patients with catatonia were more likely to be black (53.5% vs 24.5%, p < 0.001). Duration of hospitalisation was greater in the catatonic group (221 days vs 86 days, p < 0.001), but there was no difference in mortality when controlling for demographic variables (HR 0.96 [95% CI 0.84-1.23]). Serum iron was lower in catatonic patients (11.6 vs 14.2 µmol/L [95% CI -4.88 to -0.30 µmol/L]), but there was no difference in C-reactive protein, erythrocyte sedimentation rate or white cell count. NMDA receptor antibodies were present at a higher rate (OR 5.6 [95% CI 1.3-24.1]). Principal component analysis divided the elements of the Bush-Francis Catatonia Screening Instrument into three components (hyperkinetic, hypokinetic and amotivation).

Conclusions:   This is the largest study of catatonia to date. There is evidence that catatonia is not dying out and confers high morbidity but without affecting mortality. The innate immune system does not seem to be activated, but NMDA receptor antibodies are present at higher rates than in psychiatric controls. We demonstrate that catatonia remains an important clinical problem and may be associated with neuroimmunological dysfunction.

Jonathan P Rogers , Thomas A Pollak, Nazifa Begum, Anna Griffin, Ben Carter, Megan Pritchard, Matthew Broadbent, Anna Kolliakou, Robert Stewart, Rashmi Patel, Adrian Bomford, Ali Amad, Timothy Nicholson, Anthony S David

Lucy Chester

Lucy Chester Department of Psychosis Studies, King’s College London PhD Year 2

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘cannabis’? What does ‘cannabis user’ look like to you?  Recently, you might have seen in the news a different sort of picture being painted. A young person, just starting out in life, smoking what they think is a harmless plant only to find themselves starting to hear and believe things that can’t possibly be real.  Psychotic disorders, like schizophrenia, might only affect about 1% of the population but they have such a profound effect on those who do suffer that scientists have made it a priority to find out what causes these symptoms.  Cannabis is often cited as one of the prime suspects.  Now not everyone with psychosis has used cannabis, and most people have used cannabis, about 30% of the UK, will never get a psychotic disorder. But we know that people who do have a psychotic disorder are more likely to be cannabis users than those who don’t. The question is, what comes first? Does psychosis make people use cannabis or is it the other way around, or is it both?  Well one of the best ways of trying to answer that question is looking at what people do before they develop psychosis.  Now 1% of the population getting psychosis isn’t a very big number to work with. So, our research team went around interviewing hundreds of people across the world who were at ultra-high risk of developing psychosis. What this means is that, because of their family history or some minor symptoms they’d shown before, we estimated about 20% of this population would develop a psychotic disorder. And 65 of the 344 we interviewed did.  Now we want to look at what might have tipped those 65 over the edge.

I want to know about cannabis.  There are many factors known to contribute to psychosis, such as gender, poverty and trauma. We can cancel these out with statistics so that we focus in on just the differences in cannabis use.

So were participants who had used cannabis more likely to get psychosis than those who hadn’t?  No. Maybe that’s our answer.  But after all, smoking one or two cigarettes isn’t likely to give you cancer!  So now we want to look at how much cannabis people are using. For tobacco we measure ‘pack years’, and for cannabis we can do something similar – how often they’re using it, and what age did they start?  Now remember that young peoples’ brains are still growing and changing, so it might be that those who start using cannabis very young might see more of an effect than someone who’s used the same amount but started when they were older.  Another thing we’ll compare is potency. Like a pint of whiskey has more alcohol than a pint of beer, certain kinds of cannabis contains a more of a substance called THC. It’s THC that gets you high. Potentially, it’s THC that might also make you psychotic. Studies have shown that cannabis growers are breeding their plants stronger and stronger. This might be putting people, like our study population, at greater risk of psychosis.  Around the world cannabis laws are changing. We have a lot of big decisions to make, and the most important thing is to reduce the risk of harm. First, though, we have to understand where the harm really lies.

three minute thesis dementia

Claudia Chisari Department of Psychology - Health Psychology, King's College London PhD Year 2

  Vulvodynia is a condition characterised by persistent pain (3 or more months) in the vulva without an identifiable cause. Vulvodynia can present itself in form of spontaneous vulvar pain or provoked by touch/intercourse. Vulvodynia affects 10-28% of women worldwide. The costs of Vulvodynia in the United States are estimated at 31 to 72 billion dollars annually, making it a prevalent but under-appreciated condition.  Despite its prevalence and impact, biomedical treatments have led to unsatisfactory improvements in this population, therefore a broader approach is needed.

The proposed PhD aims to explore/develop a model of Vulvodynia that includes the role of psychological and social factors to pain in Vulvodynia, and to ultimately test a new individualized treatment in this population.

Since we do not if and what psychosocial factors are most important, we conducted a systematic review and a longitudinal study.  The review found that psychosocial factors are indeed related to pain, supporting a biopsychosocial approach to Vulvodynia. Specifically, perceived injustice, body-image during intercourse and depression were identified as potentially important treatment targets. In the longitudinal study, we included these factors, examining them longitudinally, and we also included the psychological flexibility model.

Psychological flexibility (PF) is the ability to contact the present moment fully, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values. PF consists of 3 facets.

  • Being  open involves welcoming and accepting life as it is, without trying to change or alter it.
  • Being  aware means noticing all your experiences.
  • Being  active concerns doing the things that matter to us, according to our values.

PF may provide a useful model to understand Vulvodynia and it is the model upon which Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT) is based. ACT has strong research support for chronic pain treatment  but has never been studied/tested in Vulvodynia.  Through network analysis we found that perceived injustice, body image during intercourse and depression were central factors.  PF facets were all also important, showing that ACT may be a potentially effective treatment in Vulvodynia.

In light of this, we will conduct a single-case (N-OF-1) individualised treatment approach, based on ACT as well as injustice and body-image principles, in women with Vulvodynia.

Katrina Davis

Katrina Davis Department of Psychological Medicine,  King’s College London PhD Year 2

There is a great interest and need for research into dementia and dementia care. Many questions cannot be answered by traditional trials due to the complexity of dementia and people with dementia. This is where healthcare database studies can fill a need. Research at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (SLaM) uses the depth of information from the electronic health records recording the detailed assessment people referred to SLaM undergo prior to a diagnosis of dementia in a secure manner through CRIS. Researchers have used this to look at whether anti-dementia drugs work and what the risk factors are for unplanned hospital admissions, for example. But since the data in healthcare databases are not collected for research purposes, it may be influenced by where and how the data is collected. Another healthcare database is Lambeth DataNet, which allows data entered in primary care in Lambeth to be used for research A recent linkage of the data in CRIS-SLaM with Lambeth DataNet (LDN) allows us to consider everyone with a GP in Lambeth, whether or not they have been seen in SLaM. I used this linkage to compare the people with a Lambeth GP who were flagged as having dementia in LDN with those flagged as having dementia in CRIS-SLaM, to see if they are the same people, and if not, what the differences were.

5239 people had been flagged as having dementia in total, and just over half were flagged in both databases, but 26% were only in secondary care (CRIS) and 19% were only in primary care (LDN). [figure 1] Looking at how often certain features came up in each of the three groups, the differences are subtle (although the diagram has been plotted to make the most of them). [figure 2] One thing that stands out is that the LDN-only cohort is higher than the other cohorts for death within 4 years, residence in a care home (prior to diagnosis) and multiple comorbidities – this may reflect the way GPs refer, perhaps they are reluctant to refer frail people to secondary care psychiatry.

My findings are that the cohorts from primary and secondary care databases have a large overlap, but there is a suggestion that secondary care does not have as many frail people. This should be kept in mind when evaluating results about dementia from CRIS-SLaM.

Valeria de Angel

Valeria (Val) de Angel Department of Psychological Medicine,  King’s College London PhD Year 2

I’m going to start by admitting that I hate the month of November. The days are dark, cold and rainy, and I genuinely start feeling the pressure of Christmas shopping! And I notice changes in my mood, I start withdrawing from friends and I sometimes find it hard to leave my bed, let alone my home.  As my mood lifts however, I become way more active, I cook a lot more (which I enjoy doing), and I sleep a lot better.  Many of these behaviours as you know are associated with symptoms of depression.  But did you know that our smartphones and smartwatches can detect these behaviours through digital sensors?

For my PhD I’m harnessing the power of digital technologies to improve outcomes in people with depression and anxiety.  I will track people’s behaviour, by (1) giving them a Fitbit and a few apps to download which collect information on sleep, physical activity, sociability and phone use, and comparing that to (2) their mood – so their responses on weekly symptom questionnaires.  By studying how one changes alongside the other I want to answer the question:

Can we know someone’s mental state from their smartphone and wearable data?

An important aspect of my project is to monitor people specifically as they go through psychological therapies.…which is when the clinicians in the room get really excited thinking about its application within treatment. You see they rely on people self-reporting their symptoms to diagnose and treat mental illness. But people’s memories are faulty. My Fitbit however, without asking me a single question, knows if I’m sleeping well, my phone knows if I’m using productivity apps more than Instagram and my GPS knows if I’ve been at home all week.  Some exciting results for me would be that digital data strongly predicts someone’s illness severity, and whether they will recover, but, just as importantly, I might find that these data collection methods aren’t feasible: perhaps data is too patchy to make any conclusions. People might not use or engage with the technology because they might find it stigmatising or uncomfortable to wear an activity tracker – especially at night.  What I probably will find, is that “further research is needed”.  The idea is that, if we have richer, more objective data, which no longer relies on self-report (and our terrible memories).  If we are better equipped to detect improvements during treatment, we will make better clinical decisions

Like in the example on the slide, imagine my device identifying that I’m staying at home a lot more than usual. It might help my therapist realise my treatment isn’t yet effective, and I need more social support.  We use digital tools for so much already! I hope we can start using them to improve treatments, push those recovery rates up and help us through those tough “November” days.

Julia Griem

There are 1.35 million violent offenses reported in the UK each year, which costs £37 billion, and the psychological burden is very high. Over 60% is committed by only 1% of the male population. These men meet the criteria for antisocial personality disorder, which I’ll be referring to as ‘ASPD’. ASPD is characterized by unlawful and illegal behaviour, impulsivity, irresponsibility, deceitfulness, irritability and aggression, and lack of remorse. Unfortunately, it’s a very heterogeneous diagnosis, which means different individuals can suffer from different symptoms and still meet the threshold. Treatment options are also very limited.

Some people with ASPD also meet criteria for psychopathy, but most don’t. Psychopathy is additionally characterized by interpersonal-affective problems like superficial charm, grandiosity, shallow affect, pathological lying, callousness, and lack of empathy. Therefore, ASPD could be sub-categorized into with and without psychopathy. Neuropsychological and neurobiological evidence supports this. Those with psychopathy have severe deficits in emotion recognition and reduced threat response (such as reduced heart rate), whereas those without psychopathy have heightened threat responses. The two groups also respond differently to reward and punishment, which affects their future decision-making. Individuals without psychopathy also have a more generic executive function deficit. Functional MRI has shown impaired neural activity in key areas of the social brain network, and structural MRI has shown reduced grey matter volume in psychopathy. Most research to date has not directly compared those with and without psychopathy. Furthermore, research on the resting-state brain activity and cerebral blood flow is lacking. As mentioned, treatment options are very limited. The social brain areas have many oxytocin receptors. Oxytocin plays a crucial role in social communication (hint: the “love hormone”) and has been shown to improve social deficits in other disorders, so there might be some potential for ASPD.

My PhD thesis will compare violent offenders with ASPD with and without psychopathy and non-offending healthy controls on various neuropsychological tests and neuroimaging measures. I hypothesize that I will find differential profiles between ASPD with and without psychopathy. Furthermore, I expect that oxytocin will influence neuropsychological performance as well as cerebral blood flow. My results will impact the current diagnostic procedure for ASPD while hopefully also informing future treatment developments, both by providing more insight into the underpinnings of this disorder, which are required for the development of psychological therapies, as well as by showing the potential of oxytocin as a medical treatment. This will hopefully eventually reduce the frequency and cost of violent offending.

Paris Lalousis

Paris Lalousis Institute for Mental Health & Centre for Human Brain Health, University of Birmingham / University of Melbourne PhD Year 2

Only 14-20% of people with psychosis will have a full recovery, with the majority having recurrent episodes and relapses. It has been estimated that around 80% of people with psychosis relapse within five years of a first episode that has been treated. Similarly, only 25% of people with depression achieve full remission and response to pharmacological treatment, with the remainder achieving partial response or response without remission. The comorbidity between schizophrenia and depression is exceptionally high. In schizophrenia, there is a reported prevalence of depression in around 40% of people. In acute episodes of schizophrenia, the prevalence of depression is higher still at around 60%. Conversely, psychotic symptoms occur in 14-19% of people diagnosed with major depressive disorder and there exists a positive correlation between the proportion of reported hallucinations and/or delusions and the number of existent depressive symptoms.

Diagnostic heterogeneity presents challenges to existing hierarchical categorical diagnostic systems, and some symptoms have been proposed as transdiagnostic features of common underlying pathological processes. Mental health disorders in general, and psychosis and depression specifically are understood and defined in a categorical framework. These diagnoses are based on a descriptivist approach that uses signs and symptoms to assign people to them and while they have high reliability, their usefulness is questionable. The importance of transdiagnostic symptoms is potentially hidden in categorical structures, and they remain under-investigated. Transdiagnostic approaches suggest that disorders share common aetiological and maintenance processes and that disorder-specific treatments overlook comorbidity.

Machine learning approaches could aid such challenges by disentangling complex psychopathology and providing a deeper understanding of the clinical and neurobiological profile of comorbidity by taking into account the highly complex nature of co-existing symptoms, thus potentially helping the development of new therapies for new targets. Using a combination of supervised and unsupervised techniques, data from the multi-site PRONIA study were used to investigate the heterogeneity of depression and psychosis and the importance of transdiagnostic symptoms. Results so far have shown that transdiagnostic symptoms show very good ability to accurately classify categorical diagnoses in symptomatogically pure groups only suggesting a true transdiagnostic profile in the majority of psychosis and depression patients. Traditional diagnostic groups show little neurobiological basis in terms of structural neuroimaging, highlighting the need for bottom-up neurobiological based classification systems.

To this end, using a semi-supervised machine learning approach, models built on gray matter volume and cortical thickness data suggest the presence of distinct clusters of patients with both depression and psychosis each characterized by either a clinical profile consisting of both positive and negative symptoms or an overall affective profile with distinct neurobiological patterns. Such biologically informed clusters could potentially aid the diagnosis and prognosis of these disorders.

Isobel Ridler

Isobel Ridler Department of Biostatistics & Health Informatics, King’s College London PhD Year 2

It is usually the case in psychological research that many variables influence an outcome (life is complex!). It is also often true that the sample sizes we can obtain for experiments are small and have insufficient power to detect effects.  Luckily, this is exactly the kind of scenario statistical learning methods are able to handle.  The statistical learning methods we’ll use are essentially like regression analysis, just with an extra term added called a ‘penalty’, which can make the variables of least importance shrink away, leaving us with the really key ones.  This is particularly useful when you want the instrument you created in one sample to predict a clinical outcome (say heart attack), to also precisely and accurately predict the same outcome in another population. This is becoming more and more relevant as we live in an increasingly global society, where many different cultural, genetic, gender, age and so on groups must be considered, especially as we aim to create equality in access to correct diagnosis, treatment and outcomes in healthcare.

Another common scenario in psychology is that we want to know about a trait or characteristic a person has that can’t be measured directly (for example, aggression, anxiety, genetic liability for depression).  Structural equation modelling allows us to measure these ‘latent’ traits using many measurable items in a questionnaire, or many genetic variants from a saliva sample for example.  Regularised SEM is a novel approach which combines the two methods (created by Jacobucci and colleagues in 2016/17). This allows us to combine many different statistical tests into one big model analysis, which can save time and has less risk of introducing errors along the way. We’re applying that method to the psychometrics and psychiatric genetics examples I briefly mentioned, after running simulations to test the method on similar, ‘fake’ data beforehand (a common practice in statistics).  Our first sample is a Greek, adult personality-inventory study of 1,700 people in total, and we’re looking at aggression.  Our second sample is a longitudinal birth cohort study of 1,233 women who had a singleton birth, with repeated measures taken over time of psychological data from the mothers and children. We’re looking at child behaviour questionnaire items at age 4, and an outcome of depressive problems age 9.  Finally, our third sample will be a psychiatric genetics dataset of 1,766 depression cases and 1,745 controls, where we’ll look at genetic variations potentially involved in developing depression, along with some other factors like weight and height.

So far, our results suggest Regularised SEM can suggest candidate items for removal from questionnaires and perform well in comparison with more traditional methods.

Rachel Rodrigues

Rachel Rodrigues Division of Psychiatry, Imperial College London PhD Year 2

C. Rodrigues 1* , A. Lingford-Hughes 1 , M. Di Simplicio 1

1 Division of Psychiatry, Department of Brain Sciences, Imperial College London, UK

* Correspondence: [email protected]

Background: Self-harm affects around 16% of young people in England (1) , and is one of the strongest predictors of future suicide (2) . It is, however, not clear why some young people self-harm once or twice, while for others it takes on addictive-like qualities with increasing frequency and severity, and many people continuing despite negative consequences (3) .  In addition to reducing distress (4) , self-harm also generates feelings of relief, which positively correlate with reward pathway activation (5) . What is more, these positively reinforcing effects of self-harm appear to strengthen with repetition (6) . Given these findings it is possible that reward-related approach behaviour could drive self-harm, and that automatic cognitive processes such as attention bias to self-harm cues and anticipation of self-harm could underlie this.

Objectives: This thesis consists of two parts: a systematic review and an experimental study. The systematic review aims to synthesise research to characterise i) how reward processes are involved in self-harm and ii) whether people who self-harm show reward processing biases compared to controls.  The experimental study aims to further investigate reward processing biases in young people who self-harm (N=54) compared to young people matched on negative affect who do not self-harm (N=54) and healthy controls (N=54), using a battery of computerised behavioural tasks, interviews and questionnaires.

Method: In the experimental study, behavioural tasks include, among others, i) an incentive delay task, with self-harm, money and social conditions to measure motivation to obtain reward-related feedback, and ii) a self-harm dot probe task to measure attention bias to self-harm cues, with both tasks using reaction time as the dependent variable. In these tasks self-harm stimuli are tailored to individual methods of self-harm. Subjective reactivity to self-harm stimuli is then assessed using rating scales. Self-harm characteristics, including frequency and recency, are measured using the Self Injurious Thoughts and Behaviours Interview (7) .  Task performance will be compared between groups, correlated with ratings of self-harm stimuli for all participants, and correlated with self-harm measures for the self-harm group.  

The study is ongoing, and so far we have collected data from N=29 in the self-harm group, N=16 in the negative affect group and N=22 in the healthy control group.

Conclusions: A better understanding of how automatic, reward-related processes are involved in self-harm is essential; first, to help us understand why some people find it difficult to stop self-harming even though they want to, and second, to effectively target interventions to the mechanisms underlying self-harm.

(1) McManus, S., Gunnell, D., Cooper, C., Bebbington, P. E., Howard, L. M., Brugha, T., ... & Appleby, L. (2019). Prevalence of non-suicidal self-harm and service contact in England, 2000–14: repeated cross-sectional surveys of the general population.  The Lancet Psychiatry ,  6 (7), 573-581.

(2) Klonsky, E. D., May, A. M., & Glenn, C. R. (2013). The relationship between nonsuicidal self-injury and attempted suicide: converging evidence from four samples.  Journal of Abnormal Psychology ,  122 (1), 231.

(3) Nixon, M. K., Cloutier, P. F., & Aggarwal, S. (2002). Affect regulation and addictive aspects of repetitive self-injury in hospitalized adolescents.  Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry ,  41 (11), 1333-1341.

(4) Chapman, A. L., Gratz, K. L., & Brown, M. Z. (2006). Solving the puzzle of deliberate self-harm: The experiential avoidance model.  Behaviour research and therapy ,  44 (3), 371-394.

(5) Osuch, E., Ford, K., Wrath, A., Bartha, R., & Neufeld, R. (2014). Functional MRI of pain application in youth who engaged in repetitive non-suicidal self-injury vs. psychiatric controls.  Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging ,  223 (2), 104-112.

(6) Gordon, K. H., Selby, E. A., Anestis, M. D., Bender, T. W., Witte, T. K., Braithwaite, S., ... & Joiner Jr, T. E. (2010). The reinforcing properties of repeated deliberate self-harm.  Archives of Suicide Research ,  14 (4), 329-341.

(7) Nock, M. K., Holmberg, E. B., Photos, V. I., & Michel, B. D. (2007). Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors Interview: development, reliability, and validity in an adolescent sample. Psychological Assessment , 19 (3), 309-317.

Livvy Bridge

Livia (Livvy) Bridge Department of Psychology, King’s College London PhD Year 3

Sexual minority young adults are more likely to experience common mental health problems than their heterosexual peers. The disparity in prevalence of mental health problems can, in part, be explained by the presence of additional life stressors related to their sexual orientation – referred to here as “minority stress”. Minority stress includes external events, such as perceived stigma and discrimination, but also people’s responses to these events (e.g. hiding their sexuality). Minority stress might directly impact mental health, but evidence also suggests that it can increase the prevalence of more general risk factors for common mental health problems, including low self-esteem. Interventions that aim to improve self-esteem are therefore a potential way to prevent the development of mental health problems in sexual minority young adults, which is vital to decreasing mental health inequalities based on sexual orientation. My PhD thesis aimed to firstly, establish that self-esteem is lower in sexual minority young adults than heterosexual young adults, and secondly, develop a new psychological intervention to help improve self-esteem in sexual minority young people.

First, we conducted a meta-analysis of research papers comparing self-esteem in a sexual minority and a heterosexual sample. Findings showed that, on average, sexual minority young people had significantly lower self-esteem than their heterosexual peers. This finding confirmed the basis for developing an intervention to improve self-esteem in sexual minority young adults. To help develop the structure and materials for the intervention, qualitative interviews were conducted with a sample of 20 sexual minority young adults, where they were asked semi-structured questions about their self-esteem and the impact of minority stress on it.

We subsequently developed a new intervention based on content from the interviews and adapted from previous therapies. Intervention structure included six one-hour weekly individual face to face sessions with a lay therapist trained in delivering the intervention. The intervention comprised three core sessions; these involved responding to self-critical thoughts with self-compassion and challenging negative beliefs about the self. Remaining sessions were tailored to the individual and selected from optional modules centred on topics arising from the interviews (see slide).

We then set out to assess the acceptability and feasibility of delivering the new intervention in a research trial to sexual minority 16-24-year old’s with low self-esteem. All 24 participants received the intervention and completed questionnaires measuring their levels of self-esteem, anxiety and depression at 4 time-points; baseline (2 weeks prior to intervention), pre-intervention, post-intervention and at 2-month follow-up. Results were very promising – 95% said they found the intervention useful and 95% would recommend it to a friend. Feasibility metrics demonstrated good feasibility for a future larger-scale trial with a randomised control group. Although preliminary, findings also showed significant increases in self-esteem and reductions in both depression and anxiety – 85% of participants recovered to have self-esteem in the normal range at 2-month follow-up.

Hema Chaplin

Hema Chaplin Department of Psychology, King’s College London PhD Year 3

First of all what on earth does refractory mean? The dictionary defines it as stubborn or unmanageable which some may say also describes our PhDs or Colleagues at times but in this clinical context it essentially means not responding to treatment.

There are a variety of terms for this across various mental and physical heath conditions but the broader definitions seem to comprise of three areas as shown here in the bottom left. This last part is currently missing in rheumatology definitions of refractory disease in inflammatory arthritis.

So patients with inflammatory arthritis typically have symptoms of pain, stiffness and swelling in their joints caused by inflammation which the drugs target but a large proportion still continue to have persistent symptoms of pain, fatigue and low mood despite inflammation control and this group are missed out of these treatment-resistant definitions. Ultimately both groups are exhibiting continuing symptoms and reduced quality of life due to different mechanisms but both require additional treatment in the form of non-pharmacological interventions. But first we need to be able to identify those in need of this support through an appropriate definition.

The flowchart in the top left is an overview of my PhD projects to show the process involved in generating this new definition and where I have gathered evidence from.

It became clear from both the interviews and systematic review that refractory disease is multifactorial and complex. At its core it is resistance to multiple drugs with different structures which others had already said but it seems to be so much more than just not responding to three or so drugs.  The persistency of symptoms and disease activity is also fundamental but there seems to be a whole range of these discussed so which should be included? Finally there are so many other contributing factors mentioned such as co-morbidities that it seems a definition cannot be considered in isolation without a broader model of refractory disease.

So this is what I have developed here in the bottom right. A model of refractory disease to incorporate these wider contributing factors that can be protective, perpetuating etc as seen here with the definition of refractory disease here in the middle. Using the Delphi consensus method I asked a group of experts including patients, rheumatologists and wider multi-disciplinary healthcare professionals such as psychologists, physiotherapists, pharmacists and even a social worker to vote on the specific components they feel are important to include as part of the symptoms and impact for refractory disease. Luckily for me they all felt the definition needed broadening out and now it includes components regarding pain, fatigue, reduced mobility, disease-related distress or relationship difficulties as some examples.

I am working on the final analysis for this now and as luck would have it I’ve run out of time to tell you anymore! But we are now closer to covering these important but previously missing psychosocial components and having a definition that truly reflects patients’ experiences!

Nikou Damestani

Nikou Damestani Department of Neuroimaging, King’s College London PhD Year 3

Imagine you’re walking home from work and… eureka! You’ve solved that annoying problem that’s been on your mind for weeks. Just as you go to write it down, a police car with blasting sirens passes by, and your thoughts? Lost.

To study brain function with functional magnetic resonance imaging , or f MRI, we ask that you do a task, like solve a problem, while inside an MRI scanner. We then map out the parts of your brain that are active during the task. We do this by measuring the difference in signals produced by changing oxygen levels within the blood, while it flows into the active brain regions. We visualise the active brain regions using activity maps, shown here as red blobs on the brain.

fMRI has been an extremely useful tool for exploring differences in brain function between health and disorder. These differences could link to underlying mechanisms in the brain related to symptoms and behaviours. In fact, more than 100,000 articles have been published using this technique since it was first developed!

However, fMRI scans are normally performed at the same volume as that police car siren. Can you imagine how many people cannot be scanned because of this noise? Young children may be too scared, and many patient groups can be highly sensitive to sound. Also, if we’re looking at how the brain responds to a task, how can we be sure that we’re not really seeing the response to the distracting loud noise? Of these hundreds of thousands of studies, how many truly represent what’s going on in the brain?

This is where my project, silent fMRI, is essential . I am testing a new scanning method, developed in collaboration with our colleagues at GE Healthcare, that reduces the loud noise significantly . So rather than the police car siren blasting in your ear, it’s more like hearing the soothing sounds of a refrigerator humming.

Results so far have not only shown that we can certainly measure brain activity with this silent method, but we have also found indications that it might reveal more information on how the brain works.

In particular, I looked at the activity maps of volunteers produced by listening to words being said during a loud and a silent scan. I found that the activity maps during silent fMRI, on your right, presented subtle differences from the maps during loud fMRI, on your left. Silent fMRI could be specifically unmasking the most important parts of the brain for processing language, normally hidden by the processing of the loud scanner noise.

My aim during my PhD project is to continue exploring the capabilities of silent fMRI, to see if we can indeed find more information about how the brain works by reducing the loud scanning noise. This would enable us to study more people than ever before. After all, silence is golden .

Stephanie Fincham-Campbell

Stephanie Fincham-Campbell Department of Addiction Sciences, King’s College London PhD Year 3

We know relationships and support keep us resilient, and that they are important for our well-being and even our physical health. For example, there is evidence that having a lack of social connection is as harmful for our health as smoking.

Within the current climate of the pandemic, where most of us are experiencing isolation, even more attention has been shone on the importance of our relationships. We also know that the most vulnerable and isolated people have been the most adversely affected by the pandemic.

Background to my study:   Social network interventions have been shown to have similar effectiveness on drinking to other psychosocial interventions and they are recommended by the NHS.  Outside of treatment, research has found that peer support groups can increase contact with people in recovery; providing more support for abstinence, reducing relationships with people who drink, and increasing self-efficacy in high risk situations

My specific question:  I aimed to summarise the ways in which social networks have been conceptualised in the literature, focussing on the measurement of social networks in alcohol dependence.  I identified all of the questions from social network questionnaires that have been used in alcohol dependence. Then I organised these questions into constructs and domains to provide a new consolidated conceptual framework

Key findings:   I initially found 753 articles. After screening and applying my inclusion and exclusion criteria I was left with 8 questionnaires, which were used across 36 studies.  I regrouped the 123 questions from the 8 questionnaires into 14 social network constructs, which were organized into three broader domains

  • Social connections, social contact and substance use status of network were organised under Structure
  • General support, practical support, problem solving, social support, emotional support, confiding relationship, alcohol specific support and being supportive were organised under Function
  • Network quality, feeling connected and feeling valued were organized under Satisfaction

Another finding from my review was that variations of one questionnaire (the Important People and Activities questionnaire) had been used in 77% of the studies I identified.  This was the only questionnaire that had been developed within Addictions, but it was developed over 30 years ago.  The questionnaire was also developed without the input of people with lived experience.

The findings from my review have two main implications:  Firstly, they have informed the main qualitative study of my PhD.  In this I am exploring the extent to which people who are dependent on alcohol and frequently attend emergency departments discuss the aspects of social networks highlighted in my review.  New insights from this qualitative work could lead to the development of a new questionnaire, and also have implications for how services and interventions can support people with alcohol dependence.

Secondly, my review provides a better understanding of the content and scope of social network questionnaires in alcohol dependence. In the future, this should help researchers and others choose the most appropriate questionnaire for their work.

Georgia Lada

Georgia Lada School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester PhD Year 3

Introduction: Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease, affecting ~2% of people; up to one third of patients have coexistent psoriatic arthritis (PsA). Depression is overrepresented in psoriasis, increasing disability. PsA might further increase depression risk. However, the role of PsA in the affective burden of psoriasis patients, as well as their suicidality risk remain unknown. This poses a significant clinical dilemma, particularly given purported associations between some immunomodulatory therapies, used for psoriasis and PsA, with risk of depression and suicidality.  

Little is known about how neurobiological mechanisms mediate mood in psoriasis. Psoriasis is regarded as a systemic inflammatory disease, while there is growing evidence of peripheral inflammation and neuroinflammation in depression and suicidality. Hippocampal atrophy has been associated with peripheral inflammation and may constitute an early intervention biomarker for depression. Other systemic inflammatory diseases have been linked to brain structural changes. The brain structure of psoriasis patients has not been investigated.

Aims: The main PhD objectives are to investigate: (1) whether PsA comorbidity is associated with increased depression prevalence and suicidal ideation (current and lifetime) in patients with psoriasis in tertiary clinics; (2) whether there are structural brain changes in psoriasis patients compared to healthy controls and whether these are associated with depression and peripheral inflammation.

Methods: First, a quantitative survey of patients attending the Greater Manchester Psoriasis Service, with PsA (n=100) and without PsA (n=100), is undertaken. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) is used to assess depression cases. Depression severity, suicidality and hopelessness are measured with the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology Self-Report (QIDS-SR), the Sheehan-Suicidality Tracking Scale and Beck Hopelessness Scale respectively.  

Second, T1-weighted MRI-derived brain volumes of patients with psoriasis (n=748) are compared to T1-weighted MRI-derived brain volumes of age- and sex-matched healthy controls (n=748) in the UK Biobank. Associations with depression and serum C-reactive protein titer are investigated using linear and logistic regression models.

Results: A preliminary analysis of 90 survey participants (n=59 with dermatologist-confirmed diagnosis of psoriasis alone [46% female; mean age 40.6±10.8 years]; n=31 with rheumatologist-confirmed comorbid PsA [52% female; 44.7±11.4 years]) was performed. There were significantly more depression cases among patients with PsA (58% vs 27% patients with psoriasis only; p=0.008). PsA was associated with higher QIDS-SR scores (10±6.2 vs 7.5±6; p=0.038), and hopelessness (8.7±6.2 vs 4.7±4.6; p=0.02).

The current or lifetime suicidal ideation prevalence did not differ between groups. However, the lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts in the total sample (12%) was three times higher than the prevalence reported in the United Kingdom general population.

Discussion: Joint involvement in psoriasis, representing a higher putative peripheral inflammation burden, appears to be associated with an increased depression burden. PsA was not associated with greater suicidal ideation. Target sample data analysis will elucidate further this population’s suicidality. Understanding affective comorbidity in psoriasis is important to developing tailored screening and therapeutic strategies to improve quality of life. It will be important to determine whether psoriasis patients also demonstrate structural brain changes and whether these are associated with depression and higher peripheral inflammatory burden.

Asha Ladwa

Asha Ladwa Mood Disorders Centre, University of Exeter PhD Year 3

Depression is a significant global health problem. It is estimated that around 300 million people suffer from depression around the world. While we have psychological treatments that can reduce depression symptoms, it is estimated that only around 60% of individuals recover. Therefore, we need to understand how these treatments work to continue to make psychological treatments for depression more effective. Research looking at trajectories of depression symptoms over the course of therapy often find that there are rapid fluctuations in symptoms, either sudden but stable symptom improvements or worsening of symptoms that then improve. These rapid fluctuations of symptoms have been found to lead to better treatment outcomes in a wide range of therapies for depression, but little is known about why they occur and how they lead to beneficial treatment outcomes. Therefore, the aim of my PhD is to investigate whether these symptoms changes occur similarly in everyday clinical practice as they do in trial settings, and if we can elucidate client or therapist factors that may instigate these symptom changes and help lead to better treatment outcomes. In doing so, we might be able to alert therapists to the value of these rapid symptom changes and help cultivate the benefits that they bring for clients.

Etta Nettis

Maria Antonietta (Etta) Nettis Department of Psychological Medicine, King’s College London PhD Year 3

This is the story of Ray, the gray man who is waving at you from the top of the slide.

Like his 2 other friends, Ray suffered from depression. His mood was low, he had no energy, nor interest in his work or in his daily life. He struggled to fall asleep at night and his appetite was quite low, in fact he had lost some weight in the previous month. His family was getting worried, so, together with his 2 friends, he decided to ask for help to his doctor, who prescribed an antidepressant.

Antidepressants can have several effects, but the main one is to increase the levels of serotonin. This is a chemical messenger in our body, which helps with sleep, eating and mood regulation, but its levels are low in people with depression. After the treatment with the antidepressant, Ray’s friends both felt much better and could go celebrate together, but Ray was quite disappointed and did not feel like celebrating, because the treatment did not work for him: he felt exactly the same as before.

With my PhD, I tried to find a way to help Ray, whose depression clearly was not only related to low levels of serotonin. With a blood test, I found that he had an alteration in his immune system. This system defends our body from external attacks, like stress and infections, with a process called inflammation. Inflammation acts like an army of soldiers who fight against the enemy. However, Ray’s blood test showed that his immune system had much more soldiers than other people, so that inflammation in his body was higher.

I invited Ray to take part to my study called MINDEP (minocycline in depression). In this study, I added to Ray’s antidepressant another medication, minocycline, which is a drug that can reduce the levels of inflammation. I realized that minocycline was helping Ray with his depression, because his mood had improved after 4 weeks of treatment. Also, I discovered the threshold number of soldiers in the immune system (or the threshold levels of inflammation) that patients like Ray should have in order to benefit from minocycline.

So, thanks to my study, Ray could join his friends in their celebration for recovering from depression. And tomorrow, thanks to a simple blood test, we could predict who can be treated with minocycline, and help that one patient out of 3 who feels left behind in the battle against depression.

Ilyas Sagar Ouriaghli

To dive straight into it, 75% of suicides in the UK are completed by men. In fact, men are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide compared to women. This is often a coping strategy when faced with mental health difficulties. Other strategies also include substance misuse such as alcohol and drugs as these difficulties are more also more prevalent in men. 

One of the biggest reasons for this is that men are less likely to access support, seek mental health services or even see mental health care in a positive light. Subsequently, this makes it extremely difficult to engage men with pre-existing services and are therefore branded as a hard to reach group. Usually, this is the end of the story and there isn’t much work done to identify what we, as service providers and healthcare professionals, can do to combat this.

As part of my PhD, we explored previous literature and analysed data from focus groups to work out what men need from services and what would encourage help-seeking. The key things here included:

  • a masculine narrative of help-seeking that makes sense to them and something they can relate too. The use of role models, and other men who have had mental health difficulties appears to work well here.
  • creating environments that protect their vulnerability, often things like confidentiality are really important to men
  • Educate men about mental health symptoms, what they look like, and how they present in men
  • To outline services, where they can go to for support, how they operate and what actually happens in therapy. A lot of men have this notion that therapy is for ‘talking about your feelings’
  • To use more solution focused or active problem-solving modalities. This like motivational interviewing and some aspects of CBT appeal to men.
  • To use more informal approaches – steer away from mental health labels, and structured settings as these can be quite intimidating for men
  • Advertise mental health setting differently, again, avoiding the use of labels and incorporating better incentives can help engage this population group

So, from these recommendations we went on to develop three pilot interventions that included them. The key thing to note here is that we had 2 formal interventions where male students had to pre-register and attend and 1 informal intervention which was positioned as more of a ‘social drop-in’ for male students.

All three of these interventions worked well and the participants saw them as positive, acceptable and feasible – indicating that these recommendations are effective. Additionally, the informal intervention did significantly better at engaging male students who had high stigma of mental health, who had not sought help previous, who had higher conformity to masculine norms and who were from a minority ethnic background – all of which are barriers to seeking help and reduce the chances of help-seeking in men.

In short, these show that men can be engaged if their needs are considered. More importantly, future research and initiatives should consider these recommendations in efforts to develop more gender-sensitive approaches to engage men. Over time, it is hoped that this can help reduce the barriers men face when seeking help and can reduce the gender disparity seen in the number of suicides completed each year.

Elystan Roberts

Elystan Roberts Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol PhD Year 3

It is widely acknowledged that self-harm is a current and growing public health concern. Self-harm is one of the strongest predictors of later suicide, which is the second-biggest killer of young people aged 15-29 years globally. The prevalence of self-harm among adolescents in the community in the United Kingdom is around 20% and appears to be rising, particularly among females. There is growing interest in identifying the antecedents of self-harm, and the mechanisms by which they operate, so that effective treatments and preventative interventions can be developed.

The period of peak incidence of self-harm is during adolescence, therefore it is plausible that aspects of pubertal development may contribute to the increase in self-harm risk. Previous research has identified the timing of pubertal development relative to one’s peers as an important factor associated with a range of adverse mental health outcomes. Experiencing pubertal onset earlier than one’s peers, for example, has been associated with depressive symptoms, conduct problems, and eating disorders in adolescence. Some previous research has also found an association between pubertal timing and self-harm and suicidal behaviour.

However, previous research examining the association between pubertal timing and self-harm is limited by a range of factors, such as cross-sectional research designs, the measurement of only suicide attempts or only non-suicidal self-harm, no follow-up beyond adolescence, limiting analysis to only females, using subjective measures of pubertal timing, and failing to adjust for confounders.

My thesis addresses these limitations and aims to clarify the association between the timing of puberty and self-harm risk. I used longitudinal birth cohort data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to examine the association of pubertal timing, measured using age at menarche (in females) and age at peak height velocity (in both sexes), with self-harm at age 16 and 21 years. I also investigated whether the association at age 16 years was mediated by having older friends, engaging in risky behaviours, and experiencing more depressive symptoms. Finally, I used Mendelian Randomization – a genetic epidemiology approach – to test the causality of the association between age at menarche and self-harm.

I found that earlier pubertal timing is associated with increased risk of self-harm in both male and female adolescents. This association appears to persist until age 21 years in females, but not in males. I found no evidence that the association differs according to whether self-harm is accompanied by suicidal intent. The association was partially mediated by having older friends, engaging in risky behaviours, and experiencing more depressive symptoms. There was no evidence of a causal relationship between age at menarche and self-harm using Mendelian Randomization.

My thesis used a large, longitudinal, community sample to examine the association between pubertal timing and self-harm risk. By improving our understanding of this association, the thesis lays the foundation for future work to develop effective, targeted interventions which may help to reduce the risk of self-harm in groups of young people at higher risk.

Callum Stewart

Callum Stewart Biostatistics & Health Informatics, King’s College London PhD Year 3

Nowadays we have problems in medicine that we want to solve using computational models and algorithms. For example, clinical diagnoses via image recognition of various disorders, including cancer and heart disease; studying electronic health records; or monitoring diseases over time.

Often there are differences between people, e.g. when monitoring people with depression, periods of relapse or improvement may look different between different people and even within the same person at different times.

To make things a little more concrete, a fair amount of my PhD has been looking at people with epilepsy through wearable physiological monitors; that is, heart rate, movement, muscle activity, and similar things through things like smartwatches or armbands. Seizures come in all sorts of forms – they can involve particular and various types of movement; autonomic changes, things like heart rate or flushing; loss of awareness; emotional; sensory; and so on. There is a lot of variability between people, but there is sometimes similarity within the seizures of a single person.

We would like to detect or even predict seizures through that data. Take the case where we simply want to detect whether a person is having a seizure at a particular point in time. Typically, you have set of data that you train a model, and you can then use that model to detect seizures in the future. However, it’s expensive and time consuming to record enough data from every person that we would want to monitor. Moreover, seizures from one person might not be similar to others. This is further compounded by the relatively small dataset sizes and number of seizures we are able to record (as few as one or two).

Meta-learning, first described by the coincidentally named Donald Maudsley 40 years ago but more recently popularised, is an approach that aims to allow models to be trained quickly or with little data by training it with a lot of similar but different problems. By seeing many examples of similar tasks, the idea is that the model has learnt how to adapt with relatively little data.

Work on the epilepsy data is ongoing, but a meta-learning approach to a similar problem – detecting stress from wearable physiological sensors – showed some improvement over a more traditional approach.

Dimos Tsapekos

“Meeting a friend or a neighbour and not remembering their name.”

“Not being able to focus on what a colleague was just explaining.”

“Constantly missing appointments or scheduling overlapping meetings.”

These are just a few examples exhibiting the type of cognitive difficulties many people with bipolar disorder regularly experience in their daily lives.

Most importantly, these cognitive shortcomings lead to functional difficulties, in activities such as work, commuting, or interpersonal relationships. Impairments in these areas can have a massive toll on a person’s quality of life.

What’s even worse is that until recently cognitive difficulties received little clinical attention and evidence-based treatment options were very limited. Yet, over the past few years, a psychological therapy called cognitive remediation therapy, or CRT, emerged in bipolar disorder research.

Our group recently conducted a randomised controlled trial assessing a CRT approach which emphasises learning of effective strategies to enhance cognition, called CIRCuiTS. This trial showed that CIRCuiTS does have a beneficial effect on cognition, daily life functioning and achievement of personal goals.

However, important questions remain unanswered: - who is more likely to benefit from CRT with CIRCuiTS? - does improved cognition translate into better functioning?

In my PhD studies I’ve been looking at these treatment mechanisms of CRT.

And what have I found?

I found that CRT can be effective independent of patient’s characteristics, such as their age and  education, their illness duration or severity of mood symptoms, but those with greater cognitive impairments are more likely to benefit in their cognition and daily life functioning. However, this does not apply to achievement of personal goals. This means that even patients without objective cognitive difficulties can benefit from CRT in terms of attaining their own goals.

What I also found is that cognitive improvement following CRT does translate to improved daily life functioning and goal attainment in the long-term. This means that we can target cognition not only to enhance cognitive skills themselves, but also to improve how well patients do in their jobs, their autonomy, and their relationships.

These findings are important not only because they show how and for whom CRT can be effective against cognitive and functional difficulties, but also because they can bring hope to patients and their families for a better management of bipolar disorder in the near future.

A future where the endpoint won’t be just the improvement of a trial outcome, but the long-term recovery of patients.



The NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) is part of the NIHR and hosted by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with King's College London . We are part of  Kin g’s He alth Pa rtners Academic Health Scien ces C entre .  

© NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre 2024 | Website design by CSMB Design  | All rights reserved.

King’s Health Partners - Logo


You are here

How to access.

Login with your zID and zPass

Any problems email [email protected]

Image, font, alignment etc will be displayed according to the style configuration in target site.

A fast way to slow dementia

Sharon Savage, who has proven that it is possible to improve the vocabulary of people with dementia in a short time-frame, is the winner of UNSW’s 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

With nothing more than a stopwatch, a stage and a simple slide, Sharon Savage was able to clearly communicate her thesis and impress the judges in 180 seconds, winning $3000 prize money and the opportunity to represent UNSW at the Australia & NZ final of the 3MT.

The PhD candidate from UNSW Medicine has proven that if people with dementia use an online tool – which prompts them to recall simple words such as “toaster” for just half an hour a day – they will see improvements in a matter of weeks.

Savage is now using brain imaging techniques to show “how you can influence your brain by working your mind”.

The runner-up in the all-faculty final was Matthew Wright from Engineering, who is working to improve the efficiency of plastic solar cells, which could ultimately be made more quickly and cheaply than current silicone versions.

The People’s Choice Award of $1000 went to Master’s student Jim Plamondon from Arts and Social Sciences who hopes that one day each of us will be able to play a musical instrument, using our mobile phones.

For her presentation investigating how the International Criminal Court can help deliver justice for rape victims, Amrita Kapur from UNSW Law was awarded the $500 ASPIRE prize. The award was voted on by high school students taking part in the  ASPIRE program .

Twenty-one students took part in the event, which is hosted annually by the UNSW  Graduate Research School .

“The competition is an excellent opportunity for PhD students to demonstrate their ability to consolidate their research findings,” says Professor Laura Poole-Warren, Dean of Graduate Research at UNSW.

“Each of the students did an amazing job summarising their findings and making their research accessible. I congratulate all of them,” she says.

Media contact:   Susi Hamilton,  UNSW Media Office, 9385 8920

Sharon Savage is a PhD student (at NeuRA) with the School of Medical Sciences.

  • Utility Menu

University Logo


three minute thesis dementia

  • Questions about Expos?
  • Writing Support for Instructors

3MT: Three Minute Thesis


You can watch the 2019 videos here.

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is an academic research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia.  While the original competition was for graduate students, a number of colleges are now sponsoring undergraduate competitions.

3MT offers seniors the opportunity to create an accessible and interesting presentation of their senior thesis research for an audience of non-specialists. All finalists were offered the opportunity to work with a writing tutor and a public speaking tutor to craft their final presentations.

First prize

Second prize

Third prize

Quick Links

  • Schedule an Appointment
  • English Grammar and Language Tutor
  • Drop-in hours
  • Harvard Guide to Using Sources
  • Departmental Writing Fellows
  • Writing Advice: The Harvard Writing Tutor Blog

The Daily

Think writing a dissertation is hard? Try presenting one in three minutes

Do you think you could summarize an 80,000-word dissertation in just 300 words? That’s the  premise of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT™) competition, an event developed by the University of Queensland that’s now held at more than 900 institutions around the world, including Case Western Reserve University. 

The 3MT competition cultivates students’ academic, presentation and research communication skills by challenging them to effectively explain their research in three minutes—in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience—using a single PowerPoint slide. Normally, a dissertation can take upwards of nine hours to present. 

The latest iteration of the event at Case Western Reserve took place in February at Tinkham Veale University Center. In recognition of National Dissertation Day today (April 26), The Daily is putting the spotlight on the PhD students who placed in the top three at the competition.

Read on to learn more about their dissertation work and their experiences with the competition. Answers have been edited for clarity and length. 

George Hoeferlin

First place: George Hoeferlin

PhD student in biomedical engineering, Case School of Engineering and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine  

1. Tell us about your dissertation! 

My thesis aims to characterize the connection between the gut microbiome and performance of intracortical microelectrodes in the brain. By manipulating the types of bacteria present in the gut microbiome, we have observed changes to both the function of our brain implants along with the immune response surrounding the implant in the brain.

2. What was your 3MT competition experience like? 

The 3MT competition was amazing! Getting a chance to fine tune and improve my communication and presentation skills was extremely valuable to my professional development. Having the opportunity to travel to Chicago and do it all again representing CWRU was just a bonus.

3. What did you most enjoy about the experience?

I very much enjoyed practicing and seeing whether my three-minute talk was cohesive and understandable. I love the writing and fine tuning process, so putting in a ton of effort to make my talk accessible to the non-scientific crowd was super fun!

4. How did the event impact you?

Competing in the 3MT competition 100% gave me a much needed boost as I approach the end of my PhD work. It made me realize how much I enjoyed the public speaking process and gave me something that I hope to continue doing in the professional work environment after graduate school.

5. Anything else you’d like to add?

I cannot emphasize enough how important and useful participating in something like this is for both new and seasoned graduate students. I would highly recommend anyone to try the 3MT competition out to better your (much needed) public speaking and communication skills. Also, prize money certainly doesn’t hurt!

three minute thesis dementia

Second place: Razaq Durodoye

MD/PhD student in epidemiology and biostatistics, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine  

Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent form of dementia and the gene Apolipoprotein E (APOE) is the single most significant risk factor for this neurological disorder. To date there are no effective treatments for Alzheimer’s. My dissertation looks at the genetic contributions to APOE-associated Alzheimer’s disease risk in diverse populations. At its heart, I’m looking to identify population specific genetic variants to ultimately generate personalized treatment options that are informed by one’s race and genetic ancestry. 

It was fantastic! I have stage fright and trouble condensing my dissertation into an accessible presentation and 3MT helped me confront both of these issues. On top of that, the people I’ve since been able to meet and the opportunities that have risen after my participation made the entire experience fun and worthwhile.

Although I don’t remember much, getting up on stage was my favorite part of this experience! The thrill of an audience coupled with my heartbeat pounding in my ears is something I rarely get these days and opportunities to get out there drive me to continue doing this work. 

It’s been a fun way to explore making my research accessible. On top of that, getting to practice my public speaking is always useful (even if I still get nervous speaking in front of others).

I highly recommend 3MT to all students! You get to better understand how to communicate your research and have a great time doing it!

three minute thesis dementia

Third place: Tshiya Subayi

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) candidate, Weatherhead School of Management 1. Tell us about your dissertation!

Each year around the world an estimated 139 million women give birth. Out of these 139 million, 289,000 die, another 2.1 million suffer morbidity. Maternal morbidity and mortality is increasing in the U.S., the only industrialized country to see this trend. The U.S. has one of the best advanced healthcare systems, therefore, women are not dying because of diseases that cannot be treated, they are dying because of their environment and limited access to healthcare. 

Our research is a mixed method study that encapsulates voices from healthcare providers who care for women. The providers assert that the causes of high maternal deaths lay in the social and economic conditions that limit access to healthcare such as mother’s education, payment methods, ethnic biases and lack of specialized health care providers that lead to low utilization of health facilities amongst others. These conditions all contribute to an increase in maternal morbidity and mortality. 

2. What was your 3MT competition experience like?

Even though the 3MT competition was widely advertised, I stumbled on the announcement at the last minute. I applied and sent my video just five minutes shy of the deadline. The 3MT team was incredible. They responded a few weeks later with a set of suggestions to improve my presentation and tighten my allocation. 

Throughout the preparation period leading up to the competition itself, the committee held a series of preparatory meetings to help design our slides, giving us concrete examples on what to do and not to do. The team helped us prepare by listening to our presentation several times. They gave us so many opportunities to practice and succeed that when I was in front of the audience, I felt nervous at first but supported. I looked at the 3MT committee and my eyes fell on Rachel Begley and the kindness and encouragement I saw in her eyes gave me the courage to deliver my presentation with poise and assurance. Overall, the experience was quite gratifying.

I most enjoyed preparing for the competition as I challenged myself to go out of my comfort zone. I shy away from speaking in public. The 3MT competition gave me courage to speak in public. Another enjoyable part of the competition was listening to other competitors and learning about all the great initiatives the university is associated with.

You may know that most of the contestants in the 3MT competition are from the medical field. I come from the management space, and it was intimidating to hear the contestants coming before me speak about the innovations they are proposing in healthcare. Moreover, I always felt that my research topic did not fit into the business orientation of the Weatherhead School. The 3MT made it possible for the management school to connect the dots. Health equity is about management. On the other hand, the impact was also personal. The competition gave me an opportunity to be a voice for women who are worried about their health care and birth experience. I wanted to make them feel that they matter. Several people approached me and told me that they felt my passion and they will now advocate for women’s health. 

Wayne State University

Graduate school graduate school, three-minute thesis (3mt) guidelines.

Three-Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland in 2008. Participants present their thesis work in a short presentation using a single slide. The competition challenges students to distill their research ideas and discoveries into a concise, compelling presentation that can be understood by a general, non-specialist audience.

The 2024 3MT will take place during the Feb. 28, 2024, Graduate Research Symposium. After three years in a virtual environment, the GRS will return to its original in-person format in 2024 at the Student Center. GRS attendees will score the presentations and select a winner, who will move on to compete at the  Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools  April 4-6, 2024 in Clayton, MO.

The submission window is now closed.


The competition is open to Ph.D. students completing a thesis or a dissertation.

  • Participants can use only one static PowerPoint slide. (No transitions, animations, or movement are allowed.)
  • No additional electronic media are allowed. 
  • No props (e.g., costumes, musical instruments, models, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations are limited to three minutes; competitors who exceed the time limit will be disqualified.
  • Presentations must be spoken word. No poems, raps, or songs are allowed.
  • Participants must deliver their remarks from the stage.
  • Presentations are considered to have begun when participants begin speaking or moving.
  • The winners of the 3MT competition at the GRS will be selected by popular vote and the decision will be final.

Presentations will be judged by the participating audience.  Every member of the audience will vote for their top three presentations according to the criteria listed below. (Each audience member can vote only once for a specific competitor.)  The scores from all audience members will be compiled to determine the winners.

Comprehension and content

  • Did the presentation help the audience understand the research?
  • Was the thesis topic and its significance communicated in language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience?

Engagement and communication

  • Did the oration make the audience want to know more?
  • First place - $1000 plus the registration fee to attend the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools competition  
  • Second place - $500 award
  • Third place - $300 award 
  • 3MT Competitor Guide by The University of Queensland (2017)
  • 3MT: The Three Most Common Mistakes , a video featuring Inger Mewburn, director of research training at Australian National University
  • 3MT: Three Tips to Help You Prepare a Winning Presentation , video featuring Rosanna Stevens, 2014 winner of the Australian National University 3MT competition
  • How to Talk about Your Thesis in Three Minutes , a Prezi presentation by Inger Mewburn (2012)
  • Making the Most of Your Three Minutes , a guide by Simon Clews
  • Winning Tips for Preparing a Three-Minute Thesis Presentation , video by Sean McGraw  


  • 2017 People's Choice Award  winner, Nisansala Muthunayake, Chemistry
  • 2017 First Place (tie), Xavier Swiecki, Art and Art History
  • 2017 First Place (tie), Daniel Harrison, History
  • View 3MT presentations on the University of Queensland's 3MT website

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) presentations

The 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) is a university-wide competition for research-based masters thesis and doctoral students at the University of Waterloo.

Competitors have 1 static slide and 3 minutes to explain the breadth and significance of their research to a non-specialist audience.

Check out past presentations from School of Public Health Sciences 3MT finalists:

The experience of food insecurity among post-secondary students: Barriers, coping strategies, and perceived health and academic outcomes

Factors affecting disability duration among Northern Ontario workers

Individual flexibility, population equity in home care service planning

Transitional care for persons with dementia and their caregivers

Does a high-fat diet affect inflammation and leptin signaling in female rat brains.

Health equity and social capital

Beauty and the beach: skin cancer and tanning in the mass media

Watch our Faculty of Health 3MT promo video  

research articles on forensic science

research articles on forensic science

Graduate College

2020 3mt showcase.

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) challenges graduate students to communicate their research in three minutes or less in non-specialist language. Contestants represent a diverse array of disciplines and areas of study, and reflect the passion and thirst for discovery common among all of Iowa's graduate students. Moala Keshei Bannavti, a Ph.D. student in civil and environmental engineering, is the 2020 winner. Her presentation focused on  remediation efforts of PCBs in schools .

Find your course

  • Aston Graduate School

3MT - Graduate School

Three minute thesis (3mt).

An academic competition challenging doctoral researchers to present their research topic and its significance in just three minutes. 

About Three Minute Thesis (3MT)

3MT is a research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland, Australia . The competition challenges doctoral researchers to present their research and its significance in just 3 minutes, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. 

Aston Three Minute Thesis competition, run according to guidance from Vitae and the official 3MT rules set out by the University of Queensland, celebrates the exciting research conducted by our doctoral researchers at Aston University. 

Watch our doctoral researchers who competed in the 2023 internal Aston University competition below. 

Aston University Winners  

Aston 3MT Winner 

Diana Galiakhmetova - Dementia treatment by light. 

Diana reached the semi-finals of the national 3MT Competition organised by Vitae. 

People’s Choice Winner

Calum Upton - Chemotherapy with no side effects? 

People's Choice Runner Up 

Ayah Al-Rababah - Do cataracts affect perception of speed? 

Ben Dages - The future of food? How scaling production could bring cultivated meat to your local supermarket. 

Caroline Godfrey - The battle for English is metaphorical: A conflict hidden in plain sight.  

Daniel Addae - Paving the sustainable future with modified cold mix asphalt. 

Mohammed Alhumayzi - Factors affecting employees' acceptance of blockchain in HE institutions. 

Paul Jones - Moving from survive to thrive.

Rebecca Preston - The backbone of the primary classroom, our the humble English textbook. 

Sadri Shadabi - Let's take a journey to the Earth and bring back a low-carbon souvenir for others. 

Saira Hussain - 'Little' ears. 

Yuan Feng - How to get people to go green for home heating. 

Comprehension and content

  • Did the presentation provide an understanding of the background and significance to the research question being addressed, while explaining terminology and avoiding jargon?
  • Did the presentation clearly describe the impact and/or results of the research, including conclusions and outcomes?
  • Did the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?
  • Was the thesis topic, research significance, results/impact and outcomes communicated in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience?
  • Did the presenter spend adequate time on each element of their presentation - or did they elaborate for too long on one aspect or was the presentation rushed?

Engagement and communication

  • Did the oration make the audience want to know more?
  • Was the presenter careful not to trivialise or generalise their research?
  • Did the presenter convey enthusiasm for their research?
  • Did the presenter capture and maintain their audience's attention?
  • Did the speaker have sufficient stage presence, eye contact and vocal range; maintain a steady pace, and have a confident stance?

The University of Edinburgh home

  • Schools & departments

Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

Watch Chen Zhao's winning "Three Minute Thesis"

PhD student Chen Zhao has won the University final of the "Three Minute Thesis" competition.

Chen Zhao is presented with her winning Three Minute Thesis certificate

Chen Zhao, a PhD student in Prof Siddharthan Chandran's lab, won the competition for her presentation entitled "Astrocyte: the star of motor neurone disease".

Chen works in the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine, and is also a member of the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease research.

Chen's video will now be submitted for the UK and Universitas 21 (international) competitions.

Good luck Chen!

Find out more about the Three Minute Thesis competition

Related Links

MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine

Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research

/images/cornell/logo35pt_cornell_white.svg" alt="three minute thesis dementia"> Cornell University --> Graduate School

Three minute thesis.

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a competition for doctoral students to develop and showcase their research communication skills.

3MT Competition

Could you present your 80,000 word thesis or dissertation in three minutes? Do you want the excitement of competing with other graduate students for a total of $2,500 in prizes and the opportunity to participate in the Northeastern (U.S. and Canadian) round or even to showcase your research at the annual Council of Graduate Schools meeting?

 3MT is an annual competition sponsored by the Cornell Graduate School. 3MT challenges research-degree students to present a compelling story on their dissertation or thesis and its significance in just three minutes, in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.All enrolled doctoral students at the research stage (with at least some results to share) are eligible. In 2024, the Graduate School 3MT is also open to research master’s students. The next competition will take place in March 2024.

Learn more about the 2024 Graduate School 3MT competition.

Register to compete!

  • March 2024 Graduate School competition registration

Email [email protected] with any questions.

All newly created videos on this website are accessible. Closed captions are available for the video on this page, and selecting the option to watch in YouTube will provide a transcript for the video. For an accommodation for this archival video, please contact [email protected] .

The first 3MT was held at The University of Queensland (UQ) in 2008 with 160 graduate students competing. Enthusiasm for the 3MT concept grew, and its adoption by numerous universities led to the development of an international competition in 2010. Today students from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Asia-Pacific region take part in their own regional and national events.

Cornell Graduate School will host its ninth 3MT competition final round event on Wednesday, March 20, 2024. Video submissions for the preliminary round will be due on March 1, 2024, and will reviewed by a panel of volunteer judges using a common scoring rubric to select the finalists.

At the final round event, held in person on the Ithaca campus, a panel of judges will score presentation and select the top two finalists. Additionally, audience members will be able to vote for their favorite presenter for the People’s Choice Award.

3MT Resources

  • Watch videos of finalists from Cornell’s 3MT contests .
  • Learn more about the 2023 3MT winners and finalists .
  • Learn more about the 2022 3MT winner and finalists .
  • Learn more about the 2021 3MT winner and finalists .
  • Learn more about the 2019 3MT winner and finalists .
  • Learn more about the 2018 3MT winner and finalists .
  • Learn more about the 2017 3MT winner and finalists .
  • Watch a video of the inaugural 2019 Ivy 3MT event . Read more about the 2019 Ivy 3MT event .
  • Watch videos of winning presentations from around the world .
  • Read more about the Three Minute Thesis in Science Magazine .
  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted (no slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any kind; the slide is to be presented from the beginning of the oration).
  • No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted.
  • No additional props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Zoom backgrounds are considered props. Please ensure your background is a blank screen or wall.
  • Presentations are limited to three minutes maximum and competitors exceeding three minutes are disqualified.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (i.e. no poems, raps, or songs).
  • Presentations are to commence from the stage.
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when presenters start their presentation through movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

Judging Criteria

Each of the judging criteria has equal weight. Note what each criterion has in common: An emphasis on audience.

Comprehension and Content

  • Did the presentation provide a clear background and significance to the research question?
  • Did the presentation clearly describe the research strategy/design and the results/findings of the research?
  • Did the presentation clearly describe the conclusions, outcomes, and impact of the research?

Engagement and Communication

  • Was the oration delivered clearly, and in language appropriate for a non-specialist audience?
  • Was the PowerPoint slide clear and did it enhance the presentation?
  • Did the presenter convey enthusiasm for their research, and capture and maintain the audience’s attention?

For more information about the Cornell competition, email  [email protected] .

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • View all journals
  • Explore content
  • About the journal
  • Publish with us
  • Sign up for alerts
  • 12 February 2024

Early dementia diagnosis: blood proteins reveal at-risk people

  • Miryam Naddaf

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Coloured CT scan of a coronal section through the brain of a patient with Alzheimer's disease.

A computed-tomography scan of a brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia. Credit: Vsevolod Zviryk/Science Photo Library

An analysis of around 1,500 blood proteins has identified biomarkers that can be used to predict the risk of developing dementia up to 15 years before diagnosis.

The findings, reported today in Nature Aging 1 , are a step towards a tool that scientists have been in search of for decades: blood tests that can detect Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia at a very early, pre-symptomatic stage.

Researchers screened blood samples from more than 50,000 healthy adults in the UK Biobank, 1,417 of whom developed dementia in a 14-year period.

They found that high blood levels of four proteins — GFAP, NEFL, GDF15 and LTBP2 — were strongly associated with dementia.

“Studies such as this are required if we are to intervene with disease-modifying therapies at the very earliest stage of dementia,” said Amanda Heslegrave, a neuroscientist at University College London, in a statement to the Science Media Centre in London.

Late diagnosis

According to the World Health Organization, more than 55 million people worldwide currently live with dementia.

People are often diagnosed only when they notice memory problems or other symptoms. At that point, the disease might have been progressing for years. “Once we diagnose it, it’s almost too late,” says study co-author Jian-Feng Feng, a computational biologist at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. “And it’s impossible to reverse it.”

three minute thesis dementia

Dementia risk linked to blood-protein imbalance in middle age

By screening 1,463 proteins in blood samples from 52,645 people, the authors found that increased levels of GFAP, NEFL, GDF15 and LTBP2 were associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. For some participants who developed dementia, blood levels of these proteins were outside normal ranges more than ten years before symptom onset.

GFAP, a protein that provides structural support to nerve cells called astrocytes, has already been proposed as a diagnostic marker for Alzheimer’s disease 2 , as has GDF15 .

The latest study finds that people with high levels of GFAP in their blood are more than twice as likely as people with normal levels to develop dementia, and are nearly three times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

The authors used machine learning to design predictive algorithms, combining levels of the four protein biomarkers with demographic factors such as age, sex, education level and family history. They trained the model on information from two-thirds of the study participants, and tested its performance using data from the remaining 17,549 people.

The model predicted the incidence of three subtypes of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, with about 90% accuracy, using data from more than ten years before participants were officially diagnosed.

The authors say their findings could be used to develop blood tests that identify people at risk of developing dementia. Other researchers caution that the new biomarkers need further validation before being used as clinical screening tools.

The study “needs to be replicated and biomarkers that enable us not only to screen for disease risk but also to differentiate between diseases should be a priority”, said Heslegrave.


Guo, Y. et al. Nature Aging (2024).

Article   Google Scholar  

Shir, D. et al. Alzheimers Dement. 14 , e12291 (2022).

Article   PubMed   Google Scholar  

Download references

Reprints and permissions

Related Articles

three minute thesis dementia

  • Neuroscience
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Alzheimer's disease

Visuo-frontal interactions during social learning in freely moving macaques

Visuo-frontal interactions during social learning in freely moving macaques

Article 14 FEB 24

A model of human neural networks reveals NPTX2 pathology in ALS and FTLD

A model of human neural networks reveals NPTX2 pathology in ALS and FTLD

A distinct cortical code for socially learned threat

A distinct cortical code for socially learned threat

Article 07 FEB 24

Signs of ‘transmissible’ Alzheimer’s seen in people who received growth hormone

Signs of ‘transmissible’ Alzheimer’s seen in people who received growth hormone

News 29 JAN 24

Obesity drugs have another superpower: taming inflammation

Obesity drugs have another superpower: taming inflammation

News 26 JAN 24

A neural circuit for navigation keeps flies on target

A neural circuit for navigation keeps flies on target

News & Views 07 FEB 24

Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain chip: what scientists think of first human trial

Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain chip: what scientists think of first human trial

News Explainer 02 FEB 24

How speech is produced and perceived in the human cortex

How speech is produced and perceived in the human cortex

News & Views 31 JAN 24

Postdoctoral Fellow - Boyi Gan lab

New postdoctoral positions are open in a cancer research laboratory located within The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The lab curre...

Houston, Texas (US)

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - Experimental Radiation Oncology

three minute thesis dementia

R&D Principal/Project Engineer

We are looking for a skilled R&D Principal/Project Engineer. This position will actively contribute to Hydro’s sustainability agenda.

Porsgrunn, Norway

Siri Romsbotn

three minute thesis dementia

Professor Helminthology

The Department of Biomedical Sciences is opening a new research unit in the field of pathogen-host-vector interactions. We are looking for a Professor

Antwerp (BE)

Institute of Tropical Medicine

three minute thesis dementia

Postdoctoral Research Associate at the RTG Chemical Biology of Ion Channels (Chembion)

An ambitious postdoctoral research associate with a fitting research idea to be included in our multidisciplinary team.

Münster, Nordrhein-Westfalen (DE)

University of Münster

three minute thesis dementia

Training Support Specialist, China

Purpose of the role:       This role is responsible for maintaining and developing client relationships for all contracted customers to Nature Mast...

Shanghai (CN)

Springer Nature Ltd

three minute thesis dementia

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Quick links

  • Explore articles by subject
  • Guide to authors
  • Editorial policies
  • Our Institute
  • Funders and donors
  • Board and Directors
  • Central team
  • Policy and advocacy
  • Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Our centres
  • King's
  • Care Research & Technology
  • Collaborators
  • Our researchers
  • Science vision
  • Platforms and initiatives
  • Research themes
  • Biomarker Factory
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) research at UK DRI
  • Translation and innovation
  • Animal research
  • Partnerships

Communicating your research with Three Minute Thesis winner Imogen Swift

Pipetting Shutterstock Darkloom

Communicating your scientific research can be challenging – and one especially tricky challenge has been tackled by PhD student Imogen Swift (UK DRI at UCL), who recently won the Three Minute Thesis competition at University College London.

In this competition, researchers must present their work to a non-specialist audience in three minutes or less, using only one PowerPoint slide. Imogen, who is based between the Zetterberg and Sogorb-Esteve labs at the UK DRI at UCL; and the Rohrer lab at the UCL Dementia Research Centre, researches fluid biomarkers in frontotemporal dementia (FTD). She framed her presentation around the story of Rachel – a woman for whom FTD runs in the family – before explaining her work and how it can help families like Rachel’s.

We spoke to Imogen about her winning presentation , and she shared her top tips for communicating scientific research.

Imogen Swift Final Picture

First off, what motivated you to take on the Three Minute Thesis challenge?

My main motivation was increasing awareness on this lesser known condition. FTD is much less common than Alzheimer's, and a lack of awareness sometimes results in people with FTD being mistreated or their symptoms being misunderstood. For these individuals, it’s good to acknowledge that others can understand or at least sympathize with their situation.

Also, one of my colleagues did the challenge last year, and she really enjoyed it. I thought it would be a great opportunity to see if I could actually squeeze the amount of work I've done into three minutes. It was an exciting project, and I’d definitely recommend it.

In your presentation, what key things did you do to make your research relevant and understandable for a non-specialist audience?

The main thing was making it personal and telling a story. For my presentation I referenced the story of one of our study participants who we know quite well. She very kindly shared her story with us, and I found that it added an important personal touch.

I also talked to my family a lot and they are all non-scientists. They're very supportive, sometimes overly critical, but that’s often handy. I would present and say, “You guys know what I'm talking about?”, and they all said no, and then I’d go back to the drawing board. My family’s input really did help; I'd recommend testing your science communication out on non-scientists, because you'll really get an outlook on how it’s received.

One challenge of the Three Minute Thesis, as well as science communication in general, is sifting through your research and selecting which parts to communicate. For your presentation, how did you go about doing this?

I have about 10 projects as part of my PhD, and so there's a lot of things I could have chosen to present. I thought about which of the projects was easiest to explain and had the highest impact. And what the audience would engage with most – after various conversations with our participants, I thought, what would they most want to know? As many are interested in partaking in clinical trials, I think they would want to know if the trials will work, so I made sure my presentation covered that.

Many say that a major part of science communication is storytelling, and I noticed you framed your presentation around a story yourself. Why do you think storytelling is so important, and what do you think makes up a good science story?

If you start with a story people can relate to, they immediately become invested, and then from there you can add in the science. As for what makes a good story, I think the personal story about someone’s life is really easy to get audiences to care about. I understand a lot of researchers wouldn't necessarily have insight into a patient, particularly if they work in the more fundamental science side. But I do really recommend speaking to people: going to support groups, going to charitable days and meeting people there.

I also think people can sometimes overdramatize or embellish personal stories, and there's a risk of making them sound more dramatic than they actually are. Ultimately, to make a good science story, accuracy is the number one thing.

Another challenge of science communication, especially with this presentation, is having to keep it really brief. How did you approach this?

The number one tip is to practice. I practiced my presentation maybe 40 times over the month or so. It’s a careful balance of practicing, but not making it like a script, or all the enthusiasm goes out the window. Ultimately, to be brief, you've got to be concise, and to be concise, you've got to practice.

Finally, if you had to give scientists three key tips for communicating their research, what would they be?

  • Less is always more . If someone gives you 10 minutes to speak, never speak for 10 minutes – always speak for less. My slides will have very basic information, I will always simplify things more and then if people want to know more deeply about something, they can always ask me.
  • Explain why your audience should care . To do that, you can think about why you care, then think why others would care from there. Imagine you’re at a party with lots of non-scientists, and they ask “So, what do you do?” And you talk about your research, and then they say “Oh, that’s cool, why do you do that?”
  • Ensure your language is accessible. I’m looking at proteins in the blood, but I told my family about proteins, and they said, “What, like in meat or eggs?” What they think a protein is, isn’t what I think a protein is. So I changed the word to ‘molecule’, and then they said, “Yes, we know what a molecule is!” Think carefully about how your words are going to be understood.

To find out more about Imogen Swift's research, as well as that of the Zetterberg and Sogorb-Esteve labs, visit their profiles.

Swift's research profile Zetterberg's UK DRI profile Sogorb-Esteve's UK DRI profile

Article published: 8 August 2023 Banner image: Shutterstock/darkloom

Founding funders

New Mrc Website

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Graduate School Updates>

The latest COVID-19 news and information is available at  Penn State's Coronavirus Information website . 

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Update

On March 11 th  the University announced that beginning March 16 th  instruction for all students will be moving to a remote delivery format. Graduate students enrolled in resident courses should plan on participating remotely, and not coming to campus specifically for face-to-face instruction. Learn more at .

Internet Explorer Detected

The Penn State Graduate School website is best experienced in Firefox or Google Chrome. It is highly recommended that you use an alternative browser.

Three Minute Thesis

  •  /  Career and Professional Development
  •  /  Three Minute Thesis

three minute thesis logo

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is an academic research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia. Through the competition, graduate and professional students can hone their academic and research presentation skills and their ability to effectively explain their research to a general audience. Each competitor has three minutes to speak and can use only one presentation slide.

The Graduate School will be hosting the 2024 Three Minute Thesis competition in partnership with the Graduate and Professional Student Association and the Graduate School Alumni Society .

3MT at Penn State in 2024 

Penn State’s first University-wide 3MT Competition will take place over two rounds. To compete, graduate students must upload a video presentation during the submission period (January 8–February 9) and be available for the final, in-person round on Saturday, March 23, on the University Park campus.

Competitor Information

Learn more about eligibility requirements, the upcoming timeline, prize money, and more.

Judge Information

Learn about remote judging for the opening round, who can be a judge, judging criteria, and more.

Essex Three Minute Thesis competition


  • First Place: $1,000
  • Second Place: $500
  • People's Choice: $500

Competition Format

Opening Round — Video Format expand_more

Open call to any Penn State graduate or professional student conducting research to submit three-minute videos. Submissions will be judged by alumni, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, faculty, staff, and others. The top 10 students get invited to the final round as well as a free lunch at Penn State’s annual Doctoral Alumni Recognition Luncheon hosted by the Dean of the Graduate School. 

Final Round — In-Person Format expand_more

Saturday, March 23  10:00-11:15 a.m.  Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center 

The final round will be live streamed from the University Park campus and will include a people’s choice prize selected by virtual and in-person audience ballots. Winners will be announced shortly after the competition.

Regional and National Competitions expand_more

The top-scoring Ph.D. student from Penn State’s final round will be invited to the regional 3MT competition hosted by the Northeast Association of Graduate Schools in April 2024 (exact date to be determined). Winners of the regional competition are invited to the national competition hosted by the Council of Graduate Schools. Students in master's and professional degree programs are eligible to participate in Penn State's competition but are not eligible for the regional or national competitions.

Why participate?

Megan Rossi, past 3MT winner at the University of Queensland, discusses how the 3MT competition helped her career.


Direct all questions about Three Minute Thesis at Penn State to: [email protected] .  

Three Minute Thesis, Graduate Exhibition, or Both?

In spring 2024, Penn State graduate students can participate in two major research and scholarship communication events, the Three Minute Thesis and the  Graduate Exhibition . Students are welcome to participate in both but should be aware that each event has its own application process and deadlines.

  • Connect with us:
  • X (Twitter)

Meet the 2024 Three Minute Thesis competition finalists

  • Author By The Graduate School
  • February 16, 2024

Marquee sign at Normal Theater in Uptown Normal

The annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition will be held at 6 p.m., Thursday, February 29, at the Normal Theater in Uptown Normal.

3MT is an academic competition that challenges Illinois State University graduate students to describe their research within three minutes to a general audience. The event is free and open to the public.

This year, ten contestants will participate in the finals:

  • Melvin Sangalang—School of Kinesiology and Recreation, College of Applied Science and Technology
  • Marley Knowles—Department of Agriculture, College of Applied Science and Technology
  • Jayden Lawrence—Department of Agriculture, College of Applied Science and Technology
  • Ebuka Okoli—School of Communication, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Sumaiya Hasan—School of Biological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Maisha Tahsin Orthy—Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Aminat Abdulsalam—Department of Geography, Geology, and the Environment, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Breanne Evans—Creative Technologies, Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts
  • Harrison Krebs—Nursing, Mennonite College of Nursing
  • Todd Dugan—Educational Administration and Foundations, College of Education

Winners of the competition will receive monetary rewards, including first place and People’s Choice receiving $750 each and second place receiving $500. The first-place winner will also move on to compete at the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools contest.

Related Articles

  • Privacy Statement
  • Appropriate Use Policy
  • Accessibility Resources

Three Minute Thesis winner announced

Marcel Roy Domalanta, doctoral student in coatings and polymeric materials

To conclude the competition, Marcel Roy Domalanta was presented a $1,000 check and is invited to represent NDSU at the Western Association of Graduate Schools regional competition in March.

Marcel Roy Domalanta, a doctoral student in coatings and polymeric materials, was announced the champion of the NDSU Graduate School’s Three Minute Thesis competition during the final round on Thursday, Feb. 15.

Domalanta’s presentation titled “Soy much better: Making non-stick materials stick” focused on his current research, which seeks to find a simple, cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution to improve the adhesion and corrosion resistance of non-stick fluoropolymer coatings commonly used in non-stick cookware by using soybeans. Domalanta is advised by Eugene Caldona, NDSU assistant professor of coatings and polymeric materials. 

To conclude the competition, Domalanta was presented a $1,000 check and is invited to represent NDSU at the Western Association of Graduate Schools regional competition in March.

“It feels nice. It feels exciting being a part of this event and also at the same time, having the opportunity to talk about my research in the most general way to capture different people. I liked not just talking about the technical side, the science behind it, but also the fun part of it,” Domalanta said. 

In Three Minute Thesis, students are given three minutes to present their research clearly and concisely. A total of 38 students presented their research projects in the competition’s preliminary round, where six students were named finalists. Each finalist received $250. NDSU held its first Three Minute Thesis event in 2015.

In addition to the selection of the Three Minute Thesis champion, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Family Business announced four students who earned Innovation Commendations, which include a $500 scholarship.

The award recognizes thesis works that focus on developing innovative technology and/or developing a creative solution to a major problem. It was established to further the Center's desire to spark creative problem-solving in economic, social, institutional and cultural environments. All participants were eligible for this award, judged by a panel of NDSU faculty and community entrepreneurs.

Winners are:

  • Mahek Sadiq, biomedical engineering, who presented “A Game Changer in Cancer Care.” Sadiq is advised by Danling Wang, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.
  • Preetham Ravi, materials and nanotechnology, who presented “Power of Superfoods - Nature Beats Cancer.” Ravi is advised by Kalpana Katti, distinguished professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering. 
  • Kyle Boutin, environmental and conservation sciences, who presented “Harnessing the Power of Wetlands.” Boutin is advised by Marinus Otte, professor of biological sciences.
  • Amirreza Daghighi, biomedical engineering, who presented “Save Animals and the Environment,” Daghighi is advised by Bakhtiyor Rasulev, associate professor of coatings and ploymeric materials. 

Australia's University of Queensland developed the first  Three Minute Thesis  competition in 2008 and the concept has spread to institutions around the world.

Read more about this year’s six Three Minute Thesis finalists. 

three minute thesis dementia

  • Feb. 1, 2024 Researchers at NDSU find that resetting approach to youth sports could have positive lifelong impact Research , College of Health and Human Sciences
  • Jan. 23, 2024 NDSU professor selected for research fellowship, AI cohort Faculty , Research , College of Health and Human Sciences
  • Jan. 23, 2024 ND Water Resources Research Institute Names four NDSU Faculty Fellows Faculty , Research

UMSL Daily Masthead

by Steve Walentik | Feb 19, 2024

Ellie Lyne delivers a presentation in the Ed Collabitat as part of the Three Minute Thesis competition

Ellie Lyne, a doctoral student in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, delivers a presentation in the ED Collabitat as part of the Graduate School’s Three Minute Thesis competition. (Photos by Derik Holtmann)

Ellie Lyne was stepping out her comfort zone Feb. 7 when she walked to the front of room in the ED Collabitat and delivered a presentation in the annual Three Minute Thesis Competition from the Graduate School at the University of Missouri–St. Louis .

The presentation, titled “On The (Zoom) Record: The Role of Video-Conferencing in Detention Hearing Proceedings,” examined the transition many in the legal system made to shift from in-person court hearings to video-conferencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teresa Thiel, Danish Gul, George Todd and Ellie Lyne at the Three Minute Thesis competition in the Ed Collabitat

Teresa Thiel (at left), the senior director of UMSL’s Graduate School, recognized the winners of the Three Minute Thesis competition (from right) criminology and criminal justice doctoral student Ellie Lyne and biology doctoral students George Todd and Danish Gul.

Lyne, a doctoral student in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice , gathered data from one court in New Jersey between April 2020 and April 2021 and looked at the prevalence of technical difficulty that arose from video-conferencing as well as any impact that might have had on outcomes in the hearings.

“I’m not the most comfortable with public speaking in that sort of capacity,” Lyne said of participating in the 3MT competition. “It was a really good opportunity for me to, in a very shortened format, practice my public speaking skills and also communicate with a nonacademic audience.”

Competitions like UMSL’s originated at the  University of Queensland  in Brisbane, Australia, in 2008. They are meant to celebrate exciting doctoral research while cultivating academic, presentation and research communication skills . Competitors are tasked with distilling their work and sharing it in a language appropriate to a nonspecialist audience.

The popularity of 3MT competitions has grown beyond Australia and New Zealand, and they now take place in over 900 universities across more than 85 countries worldwide.

UMSL’s competition follows the founding organization’s guidelines with a few local modifications.

Lyne wound up besting a field of 11 other competitors to claim first place in this year’s competition. She won a prize of $300 and also received an additional $50 for winning the People’s Choice Award.

“It was a unique opportunity for me to sit down and try and communicate the importance of these findings,” Lyne said. “That’s where I see the most value in research: being able to share it in a way that can influence policy.”

Her research continues to be relevant because the practice of using video-conferencing in court proceedings did not end with the pandemic. Many jurisdictions have continued making use of it in some cases even as many hearings have returned to being held in person.

Lyne also appreciated getting to hear from students presenting their research in other academic disciplines.

Biology doctoral students George Todd and Danish Gul finished second and third, respectively, in the competition. Todd, who won the $200 second-place prize, gave a presentation on pollinator behavior at urban orchards in St. Louis. Gul, who won a $100 third-place prize, gave a presentation titled “Microbial Hunger Games: Is coexistence a key to surviving competition?”

Lyne will represent UMSL in the Midwestern Association of Graduate School 3MT competition on April 5 during the MAGS annual meeting at Le Méridien St. Louis in Clayton, Missouri.



Engineering students Bushra Zaidi and Lorne St. Christopher II standing on the campus of Washington University

Steve Walentik

You might also like.

New Engineering Services Program helps UMSL students gain real-world experience at Boeing

New Engineering Services Program helps UMSL students gain real-world experience at Boeing

Bushra Zaidi and Lorne St. Christopher II are two of seven students in the UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program currently taking part in the program, which launched last year.

Feb 19, 2024

Homecoming 2024 is bigger, better than ever for 60th anniversary

Homecoming 2024 is bigger, better than ever for 60th anniversary

This year’s celebration spans two weeks and includes a mix of classic activities and new events such as a campus talent show.

Jon Velier graduates from Succeed Program, works toward goal of becoming Japanese translator

Velier won second prize in a JVTA English subtitling contest last year, and this summer, he plans to take part in the Japan Study Tour.

Austin Culbertson, Megan Miller and Henry Thomas receive UMSL Hero Awards

Austin Culbertson, Megan Miller and Henry Thomas receive UMSL Hero Awards

The award is presented to up to three staff or faculty members each month in recognition of their efforts to transform the lives of UMSL students and the wider community.


  1. three minute thesis dementia

    three minute thesis dementia

  2. Three-minute test detects common form of dementia that's hard to diagnose

    three minute thesis dementia

  3. (PDF) Sample Dissertation DEMENTIA AA

    three minute thesis dementia

  4. Pin on Dementia

    three minute thesis dementia

  5. Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT®) Grand Final

    three minute thesis dementia

  6. 3 minute thesis competition

    three minute thesis dementia


  1. 2013 Three Minute Thesis Winner

    Please watch: "UNSWTV: Entertaining your curiosity" Savage (School of Medical Science, Facul...

  2. 3-minute Thesis Presentations

    Presentation slides and transcripts / abstracts for the 3-minute thesis competition can be viewed below in programme running order. ... 5239 people had been flagged as having dementia in total, and just over half were flagged in both databases, but 26% were only in secondary care (CRIS) and 19% were only in primary care (LDN). [figure 1 ...

  3. Simon Rosenbaum: Mental health (2012 Three Minute Thesis)

    The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is a competition for postgraduate research students to present their research topic to an intelligent, non-specialist audience in an engaging way. The...

  4. A fast way to slow dementia

    10 September 2013 Target Sites: SoMS Sharon Savage, who has proven that it is possible to improve the vocabulary of people with dementia in a short time-frame, is the winner of UNSW's 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

  5. PDF 3 Minute Thesis

    3 Min Thesis Exercise: What are the characteristics of a bad academic presentation? Others have said: Too technical - lose interest Too much on each slide - get lost - try to read while trying to listen

  6. 3MT: Three Minute Thesis

    Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is an academic research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia. While the original competition was for graduate students, a number of colleges are now sponsoring undergraduate competitions.

  7. Think writing a dissertation is hard? Try presenting one in three minutes

    That's the premise of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT™) competition, an event developed by the University of Queensland that's now held at more than 900 institutions around the world, including Case Western Reserve University. ... Late-onset Alzheimer's disease is the most prevalent form of dementia and the gene Apolipoprotein E (APOE) is ...

  8. PDF The experiences of people with dementia in the acute hospital ward

    This thesis aimed to explore what people with dementia consider to be important factors that contribute to their experience of being in hospital. A qualitative systematic review was conducted to assess the evidence for

  9. Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) guidelines

    Three-Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland in 2008. Participants present their thesis work in a short presentation using a single slide. The competition challenges students to distill their research ideas and discoveries into a concise, compelling presentation that can be ...

  10. PDF Communicating Research: The Three Minute Thesis

    FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND WEBSITE: Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland which challenges research higher degree students to present a compelling oration on their thesis and its significance in just three minutes in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

  11. Three Minute Thesis (3MT) presentations

    The 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) is a university-wide competition for research-based masters thesis and doctoral students at the University of Waterloo. Competitors have 1 static slide and 3 minutes to explain the breadth and significance of their research to a non-specialist audience.

  12. three minute thesis dementia

    Three-Minute Thesis Judge's winner:... This is "2020 UQ 3MT Final - Sabrina Lenzen - "Be active, prevent dementia!"" by Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) on Vimeo, the home for high... Psychology grad student Andy McLennan is our 2023 #3MT Champ! Learn more about Andy's winning presentation on pain and dementia, and the....

  13. 2020 3MT Showcase

    2020 3MT Showcase. The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) challenges graduate students to communicate their research in three minutes or less in non-specialist language. Contestants represent a diverse array of disciplines and areas of study, and reflect the passion and thirst for discovery common among all of Iowa's graduate students.

  14. UCL '3 Minute Thesis' Winning Presentation

    An 80,000-word thesis would take 9 hours to present. Each year UCL stages a competition where PhD students have to present their research in… 3 minutes! The ...

  15. 3MT

    Aston Three Minute Thesis competition, run according to guidance from Vitae and the official 3MT rules set out by the University of Queensland, celebrates the exciting research conducted by our doctoral researchers at Aston University. Watch our doctoral researchers who competed in the 2023 internal Aston University competition below.

  16. Watch Chen Zhao's winning "Three Minute Thesis"

    This article was published on 10 May, 2016 PhD student Chen Zhao has won the University final of the "Three Minute Thesis" competition. Watch her presentation here (posted 8th July 2015).

  17. 3MT 2023 : Graduate School

    The live virtual Three Minute Thesis Competition Final Round took place at 3:00 pm ET on March 30, 2023. Eight finalists competed for first and second prize in the judging and People's Choice Award winner. A post-event reception was held at the Big Red Barn starting at approximately 4:30 pm ET, and was open to the Cornell community and ...

  18. Three Minute Thesis : Graduate School

    Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a competition for doctoral students to develop and showcase their research communication skills. 3MT Competition. Could you present your 80,000 word thesis or dissertation in three minutes? Do you want the excitement of competing with other graduate students for a total of $2,500 in prizes and the opportunity to ...

  19. Early dementia diagnosis: blood proteins reveal at-risk people

    The model predicted the incidence of three subtypes of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, with about 90% accuracy, using data from more than ten years before participants were officially ...

  20. Communicating your research with Three Minute Thesis winner Imogen

    Communicating your scientific research can be challenging - and one especially tricky challenge has been tackled by PhD student Imogen Swift (UK DRI at UCL), who recently won the Three Minute Thesis competition at University College London.. In this competition, researchers must present their work to a non-specialist audience in three minutes or less, using only one PowerPoint slide.

  21. Three Minute Thesis

    The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is an academic research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia. Through the competition, graduate and professional students can hone their academic and research presentation skills and their ability to effectively explain their research to a general audience.

  22. [PDF] Three Minute Thesis (3MT)

    The use of code glosses in three minute thesis presentations: A comprehensibility strategy. This competition is limited to students currently pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Kentucky and competitors exceeding 3 minutes are disqualified. (Rules and Judging Criteria adapted from the University of Queensland, Australia; slightly ...

  23. 2023 Temple University 3MT Competition

    The "Three Minute Thesis" (3MT) Competition. The Temple University Graduate School and campus partners host an annual 3MT Competition. This competition allows graduate students from the schools and colleges to share a three-minute version of their research with a lay audience. Participating students compete for scholarship awards from the ...

  24. Three Minute Thesis

    Student-Led Volunteering. What's On. An 80,000-word thesis would take 9 hours to present. Their time limit… 3 minutes! The 3MT competition asks Doctoral candidates to present their research in just three minutes, in language appropriate to non-specialists, and with only one single presentation slide to support them.

  25. Meet the 2024 Three Minute Thesis competition finalists

    The annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition will be held at 6 p.m., Thursday, February 29, at the Normal Theater in Uptown Normal. 3MT is an academic competition that challenges Illinois State University graduate students to describe their research within three minutes to a general audience. The event is free and open to the public.

  26. Maria Caluianu

    About Press Copyright Contact us Creators Advertise Developers Terms Privacy Policy & Safety How YouTube works Test new features NFL Sunday Ticket Press Copyright ...

  27. Three Minute Thesis winner announced

    In Three Minute Thesis, students are given three minutes to present their research clearly and concisely. A total of 38 students presented their research projects in the competition's preliminary round, where six students were named finalists. Each finalist received $250. NDSU held its first Three Minute Thesis event in 2015.

  28. School of Graduate Studies

    Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Join us for the third annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT™) competition at Case Western Reserve University on Friday, February 16, from 12:40 to 3:15pm EST in the Tinkham Veale University Center Ballroom! Developed by the University of Queensland and now held at over 900 institutions across more than 80 countries, 3MT celebrates the exciting research conducted by ...

  29. Criminology and criminal justice doctoral student Ellie Lyne wins 3

    Ellie Lyne was stepping out her comfort zone Feb. 7 when she walked to the front of room in the ED Collabitat and delivered a presentation in the annual Three Minute Thesis Competition from the Graduate School at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.. The presentation, titled "On The (Zoom) Record: The Role of Video-Conferencing in Detention Hearing Proceedings," examined the transition ...