Professor Felice Jacka

Professor Jacka is Director of the Food and Mood Centre and founder and president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR). She is an NHMRC Career Development Fellow at Deakin University in Australia, within the IMPACT SRC at the School of Medicine. She also holds Honorary Principal Research Fellow appointments at the Centre for Adolescent Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Centre; The University of Melbourne; and the Black Dog Institute in NSW.

Professor Jacka has pioneered a highly innovative program of research that examines how individuals’ diets, and other lifestyle behaviours, interact with the risk for mental health problems. This research is being carried out with the ultimate goal of developing an evidence-based public health message for the primary prevention of the common mental disorders. She has published extensively in high-impact journals in the mental health field including the American Journal of Psychiatry, World Psychiatry, BMC Medicine, Schizophrenia Bulletin and Lancet Psychiatry.

Dr Sarah Dash

Sarah was the Food & Mood Centre’s first PhD graduate, and her thesis focused on the biological pathways that may mediate the diet-depression relationship.

Sarah is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at Baker IDI, working with Australian Health Survey data to examine associations between lifestyle-associated risk factors and chronic disease. She is an honorary post-doc at the Food & Mood Centre, and her interests include nutritional epidemiology, physical and mental health, prevention, health policy, science translation and communication.

Dr Wolfgang Marx

Wolfgang is an Accredited Practising Dietitian who completed his PhD at Bond University where he investigated the use of nutraceutical interventions on chemotherapy-induced nausea and fatigue. Wolfgang holds an Alfred-Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellowship with the Food and Mood Centre where he is investigating the use of novel nutraceutical and polyphenol compounds on cognition, fatigue, and mental health.

Dr Anu Ruusunen

Anu finished her PhD in Epidemiology in 2013, and she has a Title of Docent in Nutrition, specialisation in psychiatric disorders. She is also a registered dietitian (RD), who has been working as a clinical dietitian at the Department of Psychiatry, Kuopio University Hospital, Finland. In her clinical work, Anu has been counselling individuals with depressive, psychotic or eating disorders to improve their diet, and thus to improve their physical and mental well-being.

Currently Anu is working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Food & Mood Centre. Anu’s studies have mainly focused on the epidemiological associations between diet and depression. She has also expanded her speciality in clinical trials, with a role on the randomized clinical trial of vitamin D supplementation in patients with depression (DepFuD). Her current post doc -projects are related to dietary interventions in psychotic patients, and the effects of nutritional rehabilitation procedures on gut microbiota in eating disorder patients.

Her future research goals focus on new dietary interventions for psychiatric disorders (including depression, psychotic disorders and eating disorders), targeting on diet, gut microbiota, and mental health symptomology. Anu also loves cooking and baking, running, and bodyboarding with her family in the ocean waves.

Dr Tetyana Rocks

Tetyana Rocks is a post-doctoral Fernwood Foundation Research Fellow. She joined the Food & Mood Centre at the end of 2017. Tetyana is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian who competed her PhD at University of the Sunshine Coast. For her PhD, funded by the Australian Postgraduate Award, Tetyana focused on eating, exercise, and body attitudes and how these factors are influenced by nutrition knowledge. During her PhD, Tetyana also lectured in Nutrition and Dietetics at the USC, covering the areas of general nutrition, food, society and culture, and food sciences.

Currently, Tetyana is developing her post-doctoral research in knowledge translation in nutrition and mental health. Her specific interests include every day, simple nutrition for healthy body and mind throughout the life stages. A devoted vegetable lover herself, Tetyana aims to spread the love and appreciation for good food to the wider community.

Dr Erin Hoare

Erin Hoare completed her PhD in public health/psychology in 2016, with the WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University. Her PhD research examined links between adolescent depression and modifiable behavioural risk factors, including diet, nutrition, physical activity and sedentary behaviour. She is a current Australian Rotary Health Postdoctoral Fellow leading a collaborative research project between Global Obesity Centre and the Food and Mood Centre.

Erin’s PhD findings indicated improvements in depressive symptoms among Australian adolescents following a community-based obesity prevention intervention, which aimed to facilitate healthy food and physical activity environments in Australian secondary schools. She is currently examining these relationships at larger scale, across the state of Victoria. Erin’s research interests include nutritional epidemiology, adolescent mental health, and prevention science, and she has research skills in population-level data analysis, systematic reviews, and intervention evaluation.

Dr Amy Loughman

Amy completed her PhD thesis in psychology at the University of Melbourne and is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Food & Mood Centre.

Clinically trained in neuropsychology, she is passionate about understanding the relationships between physical and mental health. A particular research interest of Amy’s is the gut microbiome and the potential relevance that this ‘forgotten organ’ for understanding human health. In 2017 she was awarded the Jack Brockhoff Foundation Early Career Grant to examine the role of the microbiome in Alzheimer’s disease and cognition. She is also working on collaborative research regarding prenatal and early life predictors of child mental health at the Food & Mood Centre and the Barwon Infant Study.

Amy is an active communicator of science, and has written for The Conversation, The Research Whisperer and The Thesis Whisperer. She can also be found at and on Twitter @MBmicrobiome.

Samantha Dawson

Samantha is a PhD Candidate within the School of Medicine at Deakin University, and is hosted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. She has a Masters in Human Nutrition and is passionate about maternal and early life nutrition.  Her PhD research targets the prenatal diet to improve maternal and infant gut health.

She is excited be researching this important topic because she believes that the maternal and early life gut microbiome is highly relevant to childhood health. As part of her PhD, she will be running a randomised controlled trial that supports mothers to eat healthily throughout their third trimester of pregnancy and examining the influence of diet on maternal and infant gut microbiota. She is particularly excited about the potential for prenatal dietary improvement to influence mental health outcomes in children. After her PhD is completed, her goal will be to research the relationship between gut health during pregnancy and mental health outcomes in children.

 amelia Amelia McGuinness
Amelia McGuinness is a PhD candidate within the School of Medicine at Deakin University, Geelong. She holds a Graduate Diploma of Human Nutrition, Bachelor of Health and Medical Science (Honours) and Bachelor of Biomedical Science. Amelia’s PhD research is focusing on how the commensal bacteria that live symbiotically within our gastrointestinal system, collectively known as the ‘gut microbiota’, are able to potentially influence our mental health and behaviour via the ‘gut-brain axis’. In particular, she will be observing the associations between adverse environmental exposures, such as poor diet, smoking, sedentary behaviour and sleep disturbances, with deleterious microbiota alterations. Amelia is predominantly interested in the influence of diet on the gut microbiota and the subsequent association with mental health outcomes, such as anxiety and depression.The aim of Amelia’s PhD study – MICRO-‘SCOPE – is to determine the association between health behaviours in adults, in particular their diet, and mental health symptoms via the identification of compositional differences in the microbiota, particularly diversity and activity. She hopes that these data will support the development of novel prevention strategies and treatments, such as manipulation of the gut microbiota through diet, pre- and probiotics, and targeted antibiotic therapies via the provision of specific cocktails of select bacteria.
sara-c-photo Sara Campolonghi

Sara is a PhD candidate within the Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University, Australia. She is a clinical psychologist and nutritional therapist expert in weight management and eating habits, with a particular interest in promotion of health, behavioural change process and health coaching. She is thrilled about being part of a multidisciplinary research team who are conducting research combining nutrition, medicine, psychiatry, psychology and health promotion.

Sara’s PhD research – Food Choices: Perceptions and Experiences of Australian Fathers – is a qualitative study aiming to explore the views and practices regarding food, eating, personal food choices, and the relation between food and health of fathers with children aged 1 to 12 years. This study will also provide a better understanding about the role and the contribution of fathers in influencing the family food environment.

Claire Young
Claire is a PhD Candidate within the Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University, Australia and a Deakin University Postgraduate Research scholarship recipient. Claire holds degrees in Engineering, Information Technology and Psychology and has experience in eHealth. Claire’s research brings together these fields with the development of innovative technology to engage and educate people with mental health issues on dietary change targeting the gut microbiome, in order to improve their symptoms. She hopes her research will contribute to the growing field of Nutritional Psychiatry and further our understanding of the connection between nutrition and mental health. Claire is passionate about helping individuals better understand the direct effects of their diet on their mental well-being and also a true believer in the effective use of technology and using IT to achieve higher aims.
Hajara Aslam
Hajara is a PhD candidate within the Food and Mood Centre. She completed her Master’s degree in Food Science and Technology at university of Sri-Jayewardenapura, Sri-Lanka. Her study focused on analyzing the effect of integrated natural prebiotic compositions on several probiotics in vitro and published in American journal of Food Science and Technology. Also, she holds a patent on the novel prebiotic treatment.

Hajara’s PhD project is part of a 16-week randomized controlled trial, which is designed to assess the effects of A2 versus conventional dairy products on symptoms of psychological distress and aspects of gut physiology and body composition in women with low mood. Her PhD will address whether different types of milk proteins affect gut functions, including gut microbiota, gut epithelia integrity and gut symptomatology, that are believed to be causally related to metabolic diseases. This is a project with significant implications for public health.

Hajara’s current research interests are on studying how components in diet influence gut microbiome, physical and mental health.

Meghan Hockey
Meghan is a current PhD student with the Food and Mood Centre. With a background in Nutrition and Dietetics (Honours), Meghan has worked as a clinical dietitian across acute and subacute hospital settings. Prior to commencing her PhD, she was involved with the Food and Mood Centre, volunteering with the SMILES dietary trial and the Healthy Parents Healthy Kids study.Meghan is passionate about translating and disseminating research to generate awareness on the relationship between food and mental health. Her research interests focus on the link between diet and mental health, and the mediating pathways involved. Meghan’s PhD aims to establish whether there is a relationship between dairy consumption and mood and cognition. As part of her PhD, she will help facilitate a randomised controlled trial, which will compare the consumption of A2 versus conventional dairy products, on symptoms of psychological distress in women.
Jessica Davis
Jessica is a PhD candidate within the Food and Mood Centre in the School of Medicine at Deakin University, Australia. She holds both a Bachelor in Food and Nutrition (Exercise Science) and a Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours), and her research interests include mental health, nutrition, physical strength and gut health in older populations. Jessica has a background in exercise science and nutrition, and is passionate about assisting people with the physical contributors to their mental health. Her PhD focuses on the longitudinal determinants of muscle mass and the microbiome, and hopes that results from this research will contribute to improving the quality of life in older populations.
Professor Michael Berk

Prof Berk is currently a NHMRC Senior Principal research Fellow, and is Alfred Deakin Chair of Psychiatry at Deakin University and Barwon Health, where he heads the IMPACT Strategic Research Centre. He also is an Honorary Professorial Research fellow in the Department of Psychiatry, the Florey Institute for Neuroscience and Mental Health and Orygen Youth Health at Melbourne University, as well as in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University. He is past president of the International Society for Bipolar disorders and the Australasian Society or Bipolar and Depressive Disorders. He is an ISI highly cited researcher who has published over 800 papers predominantly in mood disorders.

His major interests are in the discovery and implementation of novel therapies, and risk factors and prevention of psychiatric disorders. He has led a program of research that has established the efficacy of the antioxidant NAC in schizophrenia and mood disorders and is currently leading investigations into a number of other nutraceutical products in psychiatry, including mangosteen. He is the recipient of a number of national and international awards including the Brain and behaviour Foundation Colvin prize, and holds grants from the National Institutes of Health (US), Simon Autism Foundation, NHMRC CRE and project grants, Beyondblue and Stanley Medical Research Institute and is a lead investigator in a Collaborative Research Centre.

Dr Olivia Dean

Dr Dean is currently the Director of the Clinical Trials Division and Senior Research Fellow with the Centre for Innovations in Mental and Physical health And Clinical Treatments (IMPACT) at Deakin University. She holds honorary appointments with the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, The University of Melbourne and Barwon Health.

Dr Dean has developed a research program focusing on novel therapies for psychiatric disorders. The program integrates preclinical multidisciplinary approaches to clinical trials to understand the biological underpinnings of mental illness, specifically depression. The multifaceted research program allows verification of target engagement and thus identification of targets for novel therapies. Dr Dean has been responsible for the successful completion of a multitude of clinical trials, including both national and international sites. Dr Dean is committed to providing better treatment outcomes for people with mental disorders and is actively involved in ensuring her research reaches community forums and outcomes are directly translated into clinical practice.

Associate Professor Seetal Dodd

A/Prof Dodd is a Clinical Associate Professor with the School of Medicine, Deakin University, a Principle Fellow with the Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, a Clinical Associate Professor at the Centre for Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne, and holds a full-time permanent staff position with Barwon Health. He has published over 170 articles in peer-reviewed journals and is on the editorial board of several scientific journals, including being Editor in Chief of the journal Current Drug Safety. He has over 20 years of research experience, originally at the Austin Hospital, Melbourne, from 1990-2001, and at the Victorian College of Pharmacy, Monash University, from 2001-2002. He is currently a researcher at Barwon Health, Geelong where he has been based since 2003.

Throughout his career his research has included a broad range of psychiatry research projects, ranging from laboratory based psychopharmacology research involving rats, cells, enzymes and analytical techniques, through to clinical trials, observational studies and other non-laboratory techniques. His interests include treatments for psychiatric disorders, focusing on mood disorders as well as drug safety and efficacy, substance use, focussing on tobacco use, and staging and neuroprogression of mental illness.

Dr Leni Rivera
Dr Rivera is a Lecturer in Medical Sciences at the School of Medicine, Deakin University.  She completed a PhD in Enteric Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Melbourne in 2012.  After completing her PhD, she worked as a Research Fellow at the Drug Discovery Biology Department at Monash University.  In 2013, she received the prestigious NHMRC Peter Doherty Fellowship.  She has been involved in projects investigating the effects of intestinal ischemia/reperfusion injury, the role of nitric oxide in injury and protection, as well as investigating the mechanisms of nutrient and micronutrient actions in digestive physiology.  Currently, her research passion lies in investigating the effects of poor nutrition, specifically high fat, highly processed, and low-fibre diets on gut health and the gut microbiota.
  Prof Bryndís Eva Birgisdóttir

Bryndís Eva Birgisdóttir is a professor in nutrition at the Unit for Nutrition Research at the Faculty of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Iceland and Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik, Iceland. She has a background in molecular nutrition and dietetics. Her research has mainly focused on maternal and infant diet and later physical health, mainly diabetes. More recently her work has focused on the role of nutrition in mental health, both as prevention and as treatment strategy. Professor Birgisdóttir also has an interest in and delivers courses at the University of Iceland on food systems and the food environment and how this relates to the daily life of people, as well as other (behavioural) factors that affect food intake. In 2017 Prof Birgisdóttir will be an investigator on an RCT of A1 vs A2 milk conducted through the Food and Mood Centre.

Dr Helen Macpherson

Dr Helen Macpherson is a NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Fellow at the Institute of Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) at Deakin University. She completed undergraduate studies in Psychology and Psychophysiology and undertook her PhD at Swinburne University.

Dr Macpherson conducts research on healthy brain ageing, with a focus on dementia prevention. She is currently undertaking a world first, randomised controlled trial, investigating the cognitive effects of a novel combination of high dose dietary supplements with exercise, in older people at risk of dementia. Using randomised controlled trial methodology, Dr Macpherson has demonstrated that a range of nutritional interventions including dietary supplements, dietary components and whole diet change are capable of modulating cognitive function, particularly in older adults.

Thaise Mondin

Thaise is a psychologist with Masters degree in health and behaviour from Brazil. Currently, she is finishing her PhD and working on a cohort study that aims to understand risk factors for bipolar disorder. She has experience in longitudinal, cross-sectional and clinical trial studies, all of which focus on mood disorders. Her particular interest is on the role that diet and sleep has on mood disorders.

Thaise was a visitor student at the IMPACT Strategic Research Centre in 2015 and holds an honorary position at the Food & Mood Centre. Her future objectives are to investigate the relationships between lifestyle, including diet, and sleep and mood disorders.

 2015_12_30_14_41_160001 Tanya Marie Freijy

Tanya is a PhD Candidate within ARCADIA Research Group (School of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne) and the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University. She holds a Master of Science in Health Psychology (University of Sydney), a Master of Health Science in Behavioural Science (University of Sydney) and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology (Macquarie University), and has published in the area of health psychology.

Tanya’s PhD research centres around the gut-brain axis, which refers to the bidirectional pathway between the gut microbiome and the central nervous system. She is running the GUT FEELINGS study, an interdisciplinary randomised placebo-controlled trial involving supplementation with probiotics and/or adoption of a prebiotic-rich diet in adults with poor mood and low diet quality. Effects on mental health and cognition will be of particular interest, as well as whether such effects are mediated by changes in the gut microbiota. Tanya hopes that her research will contribute to the emerging understanding we have of the gut-brain axis, as well as the impact of nutritional psychiatry interventions at large.