Project Title

Treating the cognitive difficulties of young people with depression

Project Type



Research interests of the research team offering the project

Orygen's cognition research team focuses on advancing knowledge and support of cognition in early-stage mental illness. Our research themes are broad but include work aiming to:

  • screen cognitive strengths and difficulties of young people with mental illness;
  • better appreciate how cognition affects the symptomatic, psychological and functional aspects of early stage mental illness;
  • develop novel ways of addressing cognition in clinical practice;
  • understand the lived experience of young people and collaborate with them so that we can use our combined knowledge to enhance outcomes; and
  • translate our research into real-world clinical practice through partnership with youth mental health services.

Details of the project

Treatments for depression typically focus on depressive symptom reduction, with little research about the best ways to address cognitive difficulties in depression. Both subjective and objective cognitive impairments – especially in attention, autobiographical and episodic memory and problem solving – are core and common features of depression in young people. These impairments impact self-esteem, self-efficacy, motivation and functioning. Cognitive impairments may also limit the benefits of psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy. This is a significant issue because longitudinal research suggests that cognitive impairments often endure, including during remission, and may increase one’s risk of relapse.

This project will focus on two promising avenues to improving cognitive functioning in young people with depression. The first is a pilot trial of app-based cognitive training, with a focus on investigating the acceptability, safety and potential effectiveness for young people with depression in a primary health care setting. This study has ethics approval and will be focussed on completing study recruitment, data collection, analysis and write-up. The second approach will be to investigate memory-specificity training as a means to improving autobiographical memory and problem solving in young people with depression.

Project references

  1. Daglas-Georgiou R, Bryce S, Smith G, Kaur M, Cheng N, De Rozario M, et al. Treatments for objective and subjective cognitive functioning in young people with depression: Systematic review of current evidence. Early Intervention in Psychiatry. 2021.
  2. Goodall J, Fisher CA, Hetrick S, Phillips L, Parrish EM, Allott K. Neurocognitive functioning in depressed young people: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neuropsychology Review. 2018;28(2):216-31.
  3. Morey-Nase C, Phillips LJ, Bryce S, Hetrick S, Wright AL, Caruana E, et al. Subjective experiences of neurocognitive functioning in young people with major depression. BMC Psychiatry. 2019;19(1):209.

Scholarships and fees

A stipend is not available for this PhD project.

Scholarships are available through the University of Melbourne – find out more here. Other scholarship opportunities may also be available but are highly competitive, so please speak to the contact person below for further details.

Information on fees for domestic and international students is available here.

How to apply

  1. Read information for future students here and check your eligibility here.
  2. Read our frequently asked questions here.
  3. Liaise with, and gain the support of, the supervisor/s. Please contact them using the details below and attach a copy of your CV and university transcript(s). 
  4. Once you’ve gained supervisor support, follow the steps outlined by the University of Melbourne here. You can go straight to Step 3. 

You are strongly encouraged to submit your application as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.


Associate Professor Kelly Allott
[email protected]