My research focuses on mood instability: rapid changes in affect that are difficult to regulate. Mood instability is a common feature across mental disorders and one of the first manifestations of distress in young people. Individuals who experience mood instability find current therapies less beneficial than the rest of the population, both pharmacological and psychological.
My research aims to understand the cognitive mechanisms that drive mood instability and associated behaviours, such as self-harm. I use a variety of methods including behavioural experiments, neuroimaging, physiological measurements, cognitive and pharmacological manipulation to identify targets for new treatments. I am particularly interested in translating experimental models into brief interventions and digital tools that can support young people in distress or at the early stages of a disorder.
Mood instability and future simulation
Episodic future simulation is the process of imagining future scenarios that we commonly use for regulating emotions, planning ahead and helping us make decisions. We are investigating how simulating vivid future negative scenarios is linked to affect lability and bipolar disorder.
Treatment development studies
IMAGINATOR is a proof of concept trial of an future simulation-based intervention for young people who self-harm, supported by a smartphone app.
IMAGINATOR was funded by: East of England Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research & Care | CLAHRC
On mood instability in young people: Dr Stephanie Burnett-Heyes, University of Birmingham.
On imagery-based interventions and their mechanisms: Professor Emily Holmes, Karolinska Institutet.
On new interventions for self-harm behaviour: Professor David Kavanagh, Queensland University of Technology; and Dr Paul Wilkinson, University of Cambridge.
On future simulation and mood instability in bipolar disorder: Dr Renee Visser, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge; Dr Katia Mbailara, University of Bordeaux; Dr Poornima Kumar, Harvard Medical School; Dr Roger Ng, Kowloon Hospital Hong Kong; and Professor Kamilla Miskowiak, Copenhagen University.