HEAD OF DEPARTMENT'S REPORT
The following numbers may be of interest;
EFTSU 899 (versus 964 in 1999)
student: staff ratio for 2000 was 20.2 which is a big drop from the 27.5 it was in 1998.
John Philip Sutcliffe
24.05.1926 - 02.08.2000
Professor John Philip Sutcliffe died on Wednesday the 2nd of August after a long illness. Known to his friends and colleagues simply as "Phil", he was born in Woollahra on the 24th May, 1926, and attended Canterbury Boys High School. Phil enrolled in Arts at the University of Sydney in 1946, and after a string of first places and scholarships, graduated with first-class honours, first place, and a University Medal in Psychology in 1949. In 1953, he was awarded Master of Arts, first class in Anthropology and the following year, Master of Arts, first class with University Medal in Psychology. Phil's PhD, conferred in 1959, was the first awarded in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Sydney. His examiners were the distinguished psychologists, Robert White of Harvard, Hans Eysenck of London and Gordon Hammer of Sydney, and his thesis was deemed by these examiners to be, "a model for what a PhD thesis should be." Phil began his academic career as a part-time tutor in Psychology in 1949, progressing to Senior Lecturer in 1956, Reader in 1963, Professor in 1966, Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 1970, McCaughey Professor in 1987 and Professor Emeritus in 1992. The longest serving member in Australia's oldest Department of Psychology, Phil and his long serving colleague, the late Professor R.A. Champion, epitomised the vigour and intellectual energy created during the headship of their mentor, Professor W.M. O'Neil.
Phil's areas of research were many and varied. In his Festschrift, he claimed not to have published a lot. Indeed, Phil opposed the current fetish for publication believing that economically driven pressures on academics to get material into print are counter-productive for their subject. In a career spanning 40 years, he published only 21 papers, one edited book, 13 book chapters, three reports, 19 conference papers and six abstracts. Nevertheless Phil Sutcliffe's research was of the highest quality. His work, and that of his graduate students, on hypnosis in the 1950s and early 1960s not only redefined, but set a new course for research in this entire area. Phil's now classic paper on credulous and sceptical views of hypnotic phenomena is one of the most cited in the discipline of psychology. His contributions to the logic of measurement in psychology were no less influential, and he passed this particular baton to his student, Dr Joel Michell, whose published work on a reassessment of the foundations of measurement in psychology has been subject to considerable international commentary and acclaim. In 1949, Phil was probably the first psychologist in this country to employ Sir Ronald Fisher’s method of analysis of variance. Later, as a lecturer in the Psychology Department, he introduced these methods to students, initiating the strong, innovative, methodological tradition that still characterises this department. Phil's work on the reliability of psychological testing and the resolution of reliability paradoxes continues to challenge accepted opinion in differential psychology, and his formal, relentless and uncompromising approach to experimental design and analysis has engendered rigour and precision in generations of Sydney Psychology graduates. Phil's research on taxonomy, in particular his Differential Concept Formation theory and its model SYDNEY, dominated the final 30 years of his research effort. The legacy of his activity in this area can be seen in my own research and that of my postgraduate students, but despite this, Phil was very much the prophet in his own country. It was not until his visiting appointments in French and Belgian universities that the true import of his ideas began to be appreciated internationally. The closely linked European philosophical and psychological traditions provided a rich and fertile soil for the sowing of Phil's ideas, much more so than the underlying dustbowl empiricism of American Psychology. In 1990-91 he held a visiting professorship at the University of Paris V. In 1995, he was visiting professor at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Telecommunications. His influence in taxonomic theory and systems continues to grow nationally and internationally and wherever psychologists seek precise, realistic, explicit and transparent accounts of our fundamental ability to know, classify, categorise and name objects in our environment. Phil is to receive later this year the posthumous award of Doctor of Science, University of Sydney, for a thesis entitled "A Critical Enquiry into the Classification Movement of the Last Half-Century".
Phil was an excellent teacher, and exemplified the Socratic method in all aspects of his teaching. His students, regardless of ability, were taught to approach all argument analytically. They were encouraged to identify premises and conclusions, to determine their truth and to assess the validity of all inference. Importantly, students were not only taught how, but were urged to rehabilitate flawed theory and experiment. Phil championed critical inquiry and objectivism and was uncompromising in his search for what is the case. As Joel Michell observed in his tribute to Phil Sutcliffe as a university teacher, "The character of his style was not exhausted by the fact that he probed with such seriousness, rigour and persistence. His interrogation was not aimless probing. It was focussed on the objective issue before us. What I mean by the objective issue is the issue as it exists independently of us, of our interests and our wishes." (Latimer & Michell, 1996, p. 14).
Phil alternated as Head of Department with Professor R.A. Champion for long periods from 1960 to the late 1980s and was responsible for initiating an elaborate and effective committee structure for the administration of affairs in Psychology. He believed passionately in the need for a democratic administrative system that allowed for open debate on how a department should progress and develop, how its funds and resources should be distributed and how the welfare of its staff and students should be monitored. As he grew older, Phil became progressively more outspoken on the plight of the universities, the lack of funding, and voiced his opposition to what he saw as, careerism and the lack of distinction between scholarly publication and CV publication. He was passionately opposed to many of the changes that have been thrust upon universities in recent decades, especially the ways in which managerialism has been used to defeat the democratic aspirations he supported. It was Phil, who in his wisdom in 1970, argued for and won funding for Psychology's first digital computers - a PDP8 and a PDP11. Today, Psychology has the largest, intranet in the university. It spans five buildings, seven large teaching laboratories, one graphics laboratory, two terminal rooms and its tentacles reach to the desktop of every staff member and postgraduate student in Psychology. It was Phil's foresight and commitment that guided our computer system through the early years, and it will remain forever a testament to his vision.
But what of Phil Sutcliffe the man - the softly spoken, mild-mannered academic? There was none of this demeanour on the squash court, the tennis court, across the chessboard, on the golf course or behind the wheel of his Subaru. In these activities, when Phil's competitive spirit and his physical fitness took control, it was, in the opinion of many, almost as if he had undergone a brain transplant! Like all of us, Phil had his foibles, his vanities, his obsessions, and his students loved him for these. Personally, I experienced many very funny moments with Phil. I share with him and another colleague, Mr George Oliphant, the distinction of being one of the only three people in the University of Sydney ever to have attended a seminar during which the entire audience and the speaker fell asleep. I was the speaker. Phil and George were the audience. Phil retired first, reclining his chair back against the wall, folding his arms and snoring softly. George was harder to judge, keeping very still and hiding his eyes behind his upper spectacle rims, but when I had stopped speaking for several minutes and George had not moved, I put my feet up on a chair and dozed off. We were wakened by a postgraduate coming into the room, and Phil, never to be bested, opened his eyes, came off his perch and immediately asked me a question!
Phil was such an allrounder, whose uncompromising and rigorous approach extended to his extra-mural interests. He learnt French at a very late age, and conversed, wrote and delivered scholarly papers in the language. He took his students and friends to jazz concerts, on bird watching and bush walking trips. He could restore furniture, explain the intricacies of weaving tartans, and just before he died, he engaged me for hours with his informed and perspicuous comparisons of American and European culture. He taught us all so much and influenced us in so many subtle ways. He was my mentor, my tormentor, my very dear friend. I shall never forget him.
If I may be permitted to conclude this eulogy on a personal note, but one that hints, I think, at why Phil's national and international standing is so high, why he was so much loved and respected as an academic and a teacher, and why the influence of his work will continue to grow for many years to come. I have been very fortunate in that I have travelled widely. I have attended many international conferences, and during the course of my travels I have met with many of the great psychologists of my time. I have listened to their papers and have argued with them far into the night. But while I have learnt many things from them, I am still glad that, rather than any one of them, Phil Sutcliffe was my teacher.
Phil is survived by his wife, Associate Professor Margaret Sankey and his stepdaughter, Katherine.
Dr Cyril Latimer
Department of Psychology
University of Sydney
Latimer, C.R., & Michell, J. (Eds.) (1996). At once scientific and philosophic: A festschrift for John Philip Sutcliffe. Brisbane: Boombana Publications, 294p.
Beryl Hesketh, BA (Hons) C' Town MA Well PhD Massey FAPsS
Ian S. Curthoys, BA PhD Monash
Robert A. Boakes, BA Cantab. PhD Harvard on SSP leave from 10.7.2000 - 8.1.2001
Stephen W. Touyz, BSc (Hons) PhD Capetown, BSc Wits.
David Grayson, BA PhD appointed 1.7.2000
R.F. Soames Job, BA PhD promoted 1.1.2000
Dale M. Atrens, BA Windsor MA Hollins PhD Rutgers
Lazar Stankov, MA Belgrade PhD Denver
Brian D. Crabbe, BA PhD
Alan E. Craddock, BA PhD on SSP leave 9.12.1999 - 9.6.2000
Deborah Erickson, BA H’ton, NY, MA Alfred, EdD Ark.
Pauline M. Howie, BA PhD UNSW
Caroline Hunt, BSc (Hons) MPsych PhD UNSW
Cyril R. Latimer, BA PhD
David J. Livesey, BSc PhD WA on SSP leave 7.8.2000 - 2.2.2001
Roslyn H. Markham, BA PhD
Iain McGregor, MA, Oxon. PhD
Terence McMullen, BA PhD retired 30.6.2000
Joel B. Michell, BA PhD
John M. Predebon, BA PhD
Rick van der Zwan, BSc PhD promoted 1.1.2000 resigned 24.11.2000
Michael B. Walker, BSc WA. BA Adel. DPhil, Oxon.
Leanne Williams, BA Q'land, BA (Hons), PhD UNE
Linda Beeney, BA PhD appointed 10.2.2000 resigned 7.12.2000
Margaret A. Charles, BA PhD
James Dalziel, BA PhD
Tim Hannan, BA MPsych MSc Macqappointed 17.1.2000completed 31.12.2000
Richard Roberts, BA PhD
Louise Sharpe, BA (Hons) MPsychPhD London
Janet Clare Wilson, BSc MPsych PhD Otago
Dianne Clark, BA NSW contract completed 31.12.2000
Anthony Grant, BA appointed 4.1.2000
Fiona Hibberd, BA PhD on SSP leave 10.7.2000 - 12.1.2001
Gina Sartore, BSc GradDip ANU resigned 21.7.2000
Honorary Clinical LecturersCommenced - End Date
Clive Allcock, BSc MB ChB NZ 10.11.1997 - 31.12.2000
Susan Ballinger, BA Macq. PhD 22.09.1998 - 21.09.2001
Christopher Basten, BA, MA, MPsych UNSW 26.05.1999 - 25.05.2002
Alex Gilandas, BSc MSc PhD Oregon 15.07.1999 - 15.07.2002
James Guinan, BSc DipEd MSc MPsych NSW PhD 02.02.1998 - 01.02.2001
Philippa Hedges, BA MA Melb02.02.1998 - 01.02.2001
Evelyn Howe, BA PhD 22.09.1998 - 21.09.2001
Helen McCathie, BA MPsych PhD 02.02.1998 - 01.02.2001
Barbara Newton BA NE PhD Macq 22.09.1998 - 21.09.2001
Michael Perdices, BA MA Melb. PhD NSW 28.08.2000 - 27.08.2003
Philomena Renner, PhD Woll 26.05.1999 - 25.05.2002
Suzanne Roche, BA(Hons) MClinPsych Macq 22.09.1998 - 21.09-2001
Reinhard Ronnebech, BA MA PhD Texas 01.03.2000 - 29.02.2003
Tim Sharpe, BSc MPsych PhD 01.03.2000 - 29.02.2003
Gillian Straker-Bryce, BA MA PhD Wits. 06.03.2000 - 05.03.2003
Lynne Sweeney, BA MA Calif. State, PhD LA 02.02.1998 - 01.02.2001
Stephanie Whitmont, BA MPsych PhD 02.02.1998 - 01.02.2001
Helen C. Beh, BA PhD NE
Olga Katchan, BA
George Oliphant, BA
Alison M. Turtle, MA
Dr Terry McMullen, BA PhD appointed 1.7.2000
Fadi Anjoul, BSc Dal.
John Bidewell, BSc UNSW MPsychol UNSW
Tanya Bilanenko, BPsych Macq
Julie Hatfield, BA PhD
Gerry Pallier, BA, MA
Frances Poulton, DipMusEd NSW Con of Music BA Macq
Manya Scheftsik, BA UNSW PGD (IOP), MA
Sylvana Sturevska, BSc UNSW MA
Philip Ley, BA Manc. PhD Liv. DipPsych Lond.
John Philip Sutcliffe, MA PhD
Professor Mick Brammer, Institute of Psychiatry, London 24.09.2000 - 30.09.2000
Dr David French, King's College London 09.10.2000 - 02.11.2000
Professor Vincent Lolordo, Dalhousie University 01.01.2000 - 01.06.2000
Dr Toshi Murofushi, University of Tokyo 01.07.2000 - 31.07.2000
Dr Mary Phillips, Institute of Psychiatry, London 31.10.2000 - 07.11.2000
Dr Nicolas Vibert, University of Paris 08.01.2000 - 07.01.2001
Professor Pierre-Paul Vidal, University of Paris 17.11.2000 - 01.12.2000
Professor Nicholas Wade, University of Edinburgh 20.10.2000 - 30.11.2000
Professor Sheldon Zedeck, UC Berkeley 15.12.2000 - 28.02.2001
ADMINISTRATIVE AND TECHNICAL STAFF
Manager Finances and Sandra Cheng, BBus UTS MCom CPA
Administrative Officer: Anne Kwan, BA DipEd CUHK
Administrative Nicole Burns appointed 1.5.2000 resigned 19.7.2000
Assistants: Gilbert Cheng, BEc NSW
Belinda Ingram, BSc (Hons)
Cindy Li-Wong, Dip Com Sec HKPU
Rachel Moerman, BA (Hons) appointed 3.10.2000
Margaret Smith, BA Wollresigned 24.3.2000
Tracy Watts, BA (Hons) Wgtn
Professional Officer: Kate Baggs, BA MPsych
Head of Computer and John Holden
Manager of Computing Yoichi Takayama, BSc MSc PhD Niigata resigned 14.7.2000
Services: Andrew Cartwright,BSc PhD appointed 21.8.2000
Computer Systems Officers: Siu Yau Kho, BSc HK MBiomedE NSW resigned 30.8.2000
Nenad Petkovski, BScEE Belgradeappointed 23.10.2000
King-Sing Shun, BTech Macq resigned 7.10.2000
Senior Technical Officers: Warren Davies
Animal House Manager: Darek Figa, DipAppSci. (Animal Technology) SIT, MIAT UK
Animal House Attendants: Deborah Brookes, Animal Attending Cert
Kerry Smith, Animal Attending Cert
Academic: In 2000, Associate Professor David Grayson joined the staff as an Associate Professor, Dr Linda Beeney and Mr Tim Hannan commenced as Lecturers, and Mr Tony Grant commenced as an Associate Lecturer.
Dr Linda Beeney, Mr Tim Hannan, Dr Rick van der Zwan, and Ms Gina Sartore left the Department and Dr Terry McMullen retired.
Administrative: MsNicole Burns and Ms Rachel Moerman commenced as Administrative Assistants. Ms Meg Smith and Ms Nicole Burns left the Department.
Technical and Professional: Dr Andrew Cartwright commenced as the Manager of Computer Services and Mr Nenad Petkovski joined as a Computer Systems Officer. Dr Yoichi Takayama, Mr Siu Yau Kho and Mr King-sing Shun left the Department.
RESEARCH DEVELOPMENTS & ACTIVITIES
The Department performed well again in 2000 in terms of research grants.
In 2000, we held: eleven large ARC and SPIRT grants (compared with six in 1999), three NHMRC grants (one in 1999), six ARC Institutional grants (seven in 1999), two University Research Grants (one in 1999), as well as a number of industry grants and research consultancies. The total funding for the year was $1.2million (also $1.2million in 1999). The similar level of total funding reflects stronger performance in ARC and NHMRC, with a slight reduction in industry and consulting funding.
• Research Division A: Behavioural Neuroscience and Learning
• Learning Laboratories
In 2000 Professor Bob Boakes began a new ARC-supported project on the properties of odours. This is in collaboration with Dr. Richard Stevenson of Macquarie University and Dr. Michael Kiernan of Charles Sturt University. The initial experimental work took place in the human learning laboratory at Sydney. This was concerned with developing a method for changing the hedonic properties of odours, following previous research on human evaluative conditioning. The procedure we developed consisted of pairing unfamiliar odours with either neutral or unpleasant pictures illustrating disease states. Initial experiments indicated that, although explicit memory for odour-picture pairs was poor - as measured by recognition tests - liking ratings of the odours was affected by the pairings. Thus, a subject might report disliking an odour that had been paired with an unpleasant picture, even though unable to recognize which picture it had been paired with. Given the promise of this method for distinguishing between hedonic changes based on implicit learning processes and more explicit forms of learning, it will be used in 2001 to investigate such learning in depth. These experiments were carried out with the assistance of Ms Tanya Bilanenko and Mr. Evan Livesey.
Another new project consisted of a series of experiments on inhibitory learning in human causal judgements, carried out by Ms Danielle Karazinov under the supervision of Prof. Boakes. These used a computer-based task that required subjects to make predictions about the occurrence of migraine attacks in a hypothetical patient tested with various foods. The initial experiments established that subjects could show inhibitory learning in this task, as assessed against a variety of control conditions. Further experiments failed to find evidence for retroactive learning - that is, re-evaluation of previously presented foods in the light of additional evidence - in contrast to some previous reports using less well controlled conditions. Finally, Mr. Angus Hughson developed his PhD project on the nature of wine expertise. His experiments compared wine experts and novices on a series of short-term recognition tests for either specific wines or wine-related descriptions. The results indicated the large role played by knowledge about wines and by vocabulary in the superior performance of experts.
Two new projects in the Animal Learning laboratory under the supervision of Prof. Boakes examined extinction of learned taste aversions. One project, of which an Honours project by Ms Kathryn Taylor formed a part, examined the effects of taste concentration and of an added overshadowing taste in the rate of reduction of a learned aversion. The other, undertaken with the assistance of Mr. Richard Morris, examined the role played in the reduction of an aversion due to an extinction procedure by counter-conditioning produced by pairing a flavour with the reduction of thirst.
Associate Professor Soames Job's research is broadly based in Health Psychology and in Learning, including the following specific projects. Colleagues with whom this research has been undertaken in 1999 included: Norm Carter, Frances Chua, Julie Hatfield, Nadine Kasparian, Emily Kleinberg, Stephen Morrell, Weimai Lee, Catherine Livesey, Richard Taylor, Susanne Murphy, and Tom Whitford.
Modeling stress effects in rats.
This project is an outgrowth of our research on the "learned helplessness" paradigm in which exposure to uncontrollable (inescapable) shock produces a marked disruption of mood, behaviour, cognition, and physiology, whereas comparable experience with escapable shock does not. Learned helplessness theory does not offer an account of a number of relevant reliable findings. Other theories are equally unable to accommodate the body of relevant data. Thus, the area remains unresolved from a theoretical perspective, and is clearly of renewed interest in terms of theoretical offerings and empirical investigation. Previous research has focussed on the nature of the disorder produced by inescapable shock. While this question is important, it is not altogether surprising that prolonged exposure to a profound stressor results in later debilitation. What is surprising is that, as we have discovered, under particular circumstances even uncontrollable shock does not result in these debilitations. We have discovered that certain manipulations of shock parameters, while not changing the net amount or intensity of shock, produce radical changes in the consequences of the uncontrollable shocks. Rats exposed to one sequence of shocks (a sequence typical of helplessness induction procedures) show typical helplessness debilitations and strikingly little fear of the context in which the shocks were delivered. On the other hand, rats exposed to another sequence show dramatic fear of the shock context and no helplessness debilitations. We have developed and partly tested (details below) the hypothesis that the contextual fear protects the latter animals from the helplessness debilitations. It appears that the latter animals 'attribute' the shock stress to that context (analogous to a specific phobia) and thus show no debilitations in tests conducted in other environments (as is typical in helplessness research). The parameters in typical use in helplessness research allow animals little opportunity to process the shock context and so allow little opportunity for the context to act as a conditioned stimulus for the shock. Thus, we suggest, that rather than showing fear these animals produce a more free-floating anxiety which thus produces debilitations (helplessness) in many circumstances. This prophylaxis against debilitation occurs when the order of shock durations is reversed, and thus we have named it the shock duration order effect. Typically, in the triadic design, the yoked helpless rat receives shocks of inadvertently decreasing durations across trials due to learning and thus faster escape responding across trials by the response contingent rats. Thus, all learned helplessness effects have been produced with flat or random (when set by the experimenter in non-triadic designs), or decreasing durations of shock across the shock sessions. These apparently incidental parameters transpire to be critical to the production of helplessness effects. We discovered that in experiments where the typical decreasing durations of shock (longest shocks first to shortest last) produce the usual "helplessness" debilitations, presenting the shock durations in the reverse order (shortest first to longest last) removes the debilitations (no subsequent escape deficit after increasing shock durations; no quinine finickiness effect after increasing shock durations; different conditioned analgesia produced by the increasing shock. Our current research indicates: that the shock duration order effect has significant effects even one month after the single session of shock, raising the possibility of modeling PTSD; that the effect is related both to the initial and late shock durations; that anxiety in the tiem between stress session; and that treatment may be important in the debilitation produced. Finally, our research in appetitive uncontrollability indicates that the simple response noncontingent delivery of food to a hungry animal is stressful, and that this stress generalises to other circumstances.
Optimism bias and risk-taking.
Most of us believe that we are more likely than average to have good things happen to us (eg. living past 80, having gifted children, and have a satisfying successful career) and especially less likely to have bad things happen to us (eg. being injured in a road accident, contracting AIDS, not finding a job for six months). This well documented effect is called unrealistic optimism or optimism bias. Not surprisingly, the perception that one is less likely than average to have a car crash may engender more risk-taking while driving. The same "logic" applies to smoking, unsafe sex, and many other health related behaviours. Our current research on this topic relates to several areas: The role of optimism bias in driving and in learning to drive. This research is funded by a grant from the Federal Office of Road Safety. We are also in the process of setting up research on the driving simulator purchased with funds from an earlier ARC research infrastructure grant. The underlying cognitions which contribute to optimism bias, including the role of contingency judgements, and the extent to which the causes of optimism bias are event specific. The role of optimism bias in people's perception of risk in relation to environmental degradation, and the role of optimism bias in determining environment-friendly behaviours such as recycling. This research has been supported by funding from the Manly Council.
Effects of Noise on people.
The most pervasive environmental pollutant is noise. We are examining the effects of noise on people in two distinct research projects. The Sydney Airport Health Study is a multi-disciplinary research project involving psychologists, epidemiologists, public health experts, and acoustical engineers. The project involves the repeated interviewing of over 1000 residents around Sydney Airport, detailed noise measurements, and assessment of blood pressure and other health effects in school children. This project is funded by the Federal Airports Corporation. Laboratory studies of different personality types and the stress effects of noise.
Personality and Stress.
Cancer and coronary heart disease (CHD) are the leading causes of death in the western world. Research exploring the relationship between personality and health, notably in onset, progression and prognosis of cancer and CHD, has been a major focus in health psychology in recent years. These models have proposed psychological, behavioural and biological pathways to explain some of the underlying mechanisms involved. Examples include the role of immune responses in stress and illness and the mediating roles of personality and health behaviours in reactions to stress. The present project examines one of the promising new generation of health related personality measures: The Grossarth-Maticek Personality Stress Inventory (GMPSI). Grossarth-Maticek and Eysenck have claimed, from the results of three major prospective studies conducted in Yugoslavia and Germany, that the GMPSI, a 70 item (short version) inventory:
1. classifies people into one of six personality types, including those at risk of developing cancer and CHD,
2. identifies a healthy personality type which is associated with greater well-being and longevity,
3. predicted subsequent health outcomes, including death from cancer and CHD with 81% accuracy 10 years after administration of the GMPSI,
4. is a better predictor of cancer and CHD morbidity and mortality than other known risk factor such as cigarette smoking and high blood pressure.
The present project involves examination of the underlying assumptions regarding the personality factors which are detected by the GMPSI and thus allow it's predictive power. Thus, we are assessing the capacity of a version of Grossarth-Maticek Personality Stress Inventory which we have revised, to predict human reaction to stress in the laboratory. Results to date a promising in terms of capacity to predict heart rate and mood reactions to stressors.
• Psychopharmacology and Behavioural Neuroscience Laboratory
The new century provided an opportunity for the animal research laboratories of the Department to undergo a major upgrade. This has lead to a welcome improvement in the facilities and general working conditions. The Psychopharmacology team lead by Dr Iain McGregor was joined by Laurens Schrama, a visiting biomedical science student from the Free University, Amsterdam. Other new staff additions included Kirsten Morley, who commenced a PhD in the lab examining the effects of MDMA on rats, Ljiljana Sokolic, who also started a PhD as part of a collaboration with the Swiss fragrance company Givaudan, and Ms Polly Ambermoon, who joined the lab as a research assistant.
Our research continued along a number of fronts as follows:
Acute and long-term effects of MDMA (“Ecstasy”). We have continued to examine behavioural and neurochemical changes occurring in rats given moderate doses of the "dance party" drug MDMA ("Ecstasy"). We have further confirmed long-term increases in anxiety and impaired memory in rats given this drug and reported this work at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans during November 2000. This work has been carried out by Kirsten Morley in conjunction with Dr Glenn Hunt (Department of Psychological Medicine) and Dr Kong Li (Department of Pharmacology). Late in the year we learned that the NH&MRC are to fund our MDMA research for three years from 2001.
Reinstatement of alcohol craving. Work by Honours student Kristy Dam, examined factors that reinstate alcohol-seeking behaviour in “reformed alcoholic” rats. These rats were given long experience of ad libitum access to beer and were then put through an extinction schedule. It was found that both mild stress and the active constituent of cannabis – THC – reinstated alcohol seeking behaviour suggesting that cannabis use during abstinence from alcohol may be a risk factor in producing relapse.
Opiate-cannabinoid cross-sensitization. Does pre-exposure to cannabis make animals more sensitive to the reinforcing effects of opiates? This important “gateway” question was posed by Honours student Christy Norwood in her research project. Interestingly, Christy found that rats given two weeks of exposure to the synthetic cannabinoid CP 55,940 showed a consistently greater locomotor response when subsequently tested with morphine. Such findings suggest an important interaction between the endogenous cannabinoid and opioid systems of the brain.
Predatory odors and anxiety in rats. Rob Dielenberg (PhD student) and Laurens Schrama (visiting student) did a heroic job of completely rebuilding our “predator odor avoidance” apparatus. This apparatus allows us to systematically test the response of rodents to the odor of predators. A collaboration with Dr Kelvin Pickering (Department of Chemistry) is attempting to isolate the precise chemical in cat fur that produces a profound anxiogenic response in rats. This project could have major commercial potential. In other work we have compared the reaction to cat odor with that to the odor of fox (trimethylthiazoline) and obtained results suggesting that cat odor is a much more potent cue. Finally, we have concluded a collaboration with Dr Pascal Carrive (Anatomy, UNSW) to provide a definitive description of the cardiovascular response to cat odor in rats.
The neural coding of odor mixtures. During 2000, we commenced a major collaboration with the team of Professor David Laing (UWS Advance Food Research Centre) and the Swiss fragrance company Givaudan. The project is aimed at better understanding how the brain responds to odor mixtures. As part of this project, more than $50,000 of new equipment has been provided to upgrade the odor delivery apparatus (olfactometers) used in our laboratory. The new equipment includes two new high end Macintosh G4 computers, several Labview data acquisition cards and several computer controlled mass flow controllers, which allow the very precise control of the delivery of odor stimuli. Ljiljana Sokolic, who joined the lab during 2000 and who has a background in organic chemistry, is co-ordinating this project
• Research Division B: Cognition and Human Performance
• Cognition and Eye Movement Laboratory
Dr Cyril Latimer worked on a number of projects in this laboratory. These included research on tilt aftereffects produced by axes of symmetry (with Ms Wendy Joung); tactile perception of counterfeit banknotes (with Dr Margaret Charles, Dr Robert Buckingham and Ms Wendy Joung); banknote colouration (with Ms Wendy Joung and Dr Laura Mezey); attentional biases in geometric form perception (with Ms Gina Sartore); measures of response in cognition (with Mr James Palethorpe); eye movements and symmetry detection (with Dr Rick van der Zwan and Dr Laura Mezey); right-field visual advantage during eye movement and fixation (with Mr Leonard Pang and Ms W. Joung. One project on banknote colouration was carried out with Mr Lawrence Ong who is enrolled in the Faculty of Science Talented Student Programme.
Collaborative projects were also conducted: on computational vision with Dr Roddy Cowie, Queen's University, Belfast and on tactile detection of counterfeit banknotes with Dr M. Srinivasan of the MIT Touch Research Laboratory in the USA.
The Cognition Laboratory acquired a new video-based eye movement recording system devised, built and programmed in the Departmental Vestibular Research Laboratory by Professor Curthoys and Mr Hamish MacDougall. The members of the Cognition Laboratory are very grateful for the time, effort and expense incurred in the construction and installation of this important facility and extend thanks to Professor Curthoys, Mr MacDougall and the VSR team for their generosity. This facility is used regularly and will boost research on eye movements and cognition in our laboratory.
Ms Gina Sartore continued work onattentional biases in pattern recognition among different language groups; as well as looking at attentional processes during pattern recognition using feature priming studies and perceived coherent motion of random dots.
Face Recognition Laboratory.
Research projects under the supervision of Dr Margaret Charles included two series of studies. The first, supported by a Departmental Research Grant, was concerned with differences in recognition memory for briefly presented unfamiliar faces after different types of cognitive processing. The overall aim of this project is to investigate whether some ways of attending to faces are more beneficial for subsequent recognition of the faces. This research has implications for training in face recognition in occupations where individuals may be called upon to recognize persons they have seen very briefly. The second series of studies, which form part of Sophie Ellwood’s PhD research, are investigating aspects of Valentine’s multidimensional face-space approach to the recognition of faces. We have been collecting ratings on various attributes of faces to investigate how well ratings compare with more objective measures of facial attributes in accounting for variability in perceived distinctiveness and in recognition performance.
• Research Division C: Clinical Psychology