Jessica Henry presents research at the European College for Neuropsychopharmacology’s Conference

by Jessica Henry on 15 October 2019

Hi, I’m Jess and I’m a third-year graduate entry medical student. I previously studied Biomedical Sciences and I’ve got a strong interest in neuroscience and mental health. I enjoyed research into neurodegenerative diseases, but I have recently transitioned my interests to psychiatry with a focus on depression, anxiety and addiction.

I have absolutely loved my time at Lucy Cav to date and chose to live in Strathaird my first 2 years. It’s got a great community and supportive, open vibes. I am such a fan of the beautiful gardens in summer, particularly with yoga on the lawn! I am still an active member of Lucy Cav-Hughes Hall joint netball team!

At the European College for Neuropsychopharmacology’s (ECNP) 2019 conference in Copenhagen, I was presenting research I’d conducted with Dr Karen Ersche at Cambridge University’s Department of Psychiatry. Our project was based on previous research findings that patients with alcohol and cannabis dependency show reduced sensitivity to tasks involving reward gain and loss avoidance. This has implications for treatment, as many rehabilitation programmes will give or withdraw privileges depending on compliance. Extensive research demonstrating this is an ineffective treatment strategy for patients with dependency highlights our need for novel approaches.

My project was interested to see if this 'altered gain/loss sensitivity' presented itself early in disease processes – i.e. in chronic alcohol users who regularly drank harmful amounts but did not yet meet criteria for dependency. This was particularly topical as the majority of our sample population were Cambridge University students! We found it interesting to observe that in this young population, there was a reduction in motivation to work for reward, but not in loss avoidance behaviour. The observed effect was directly related to alcohol use severity and may suggest reinforcement sensitivity changes occur at early stage in chronic alcohol use.

I’m incredibly motivated by this field because there are currently poor treatment outcomes for patients with substance dependency and we fundamentally need to do better in clinical practice. I had clinicians approach me at the conference to report that they had observed their patients respond poorly to ‘carrot and stick’ methods of treatment and how promising it was that there was finally data to support their anecdotal evidence. Accumulation of similar findings will encourage the current best practice guidelines to be updated and patient care to be improved. My project may progress to be clinically translatable as, with future research, altered reward sensitivity may provide a suitable target for early intervention – stopping addiction in its destructive path.

My priorities in the near future are to continue contributing to this fascinating area of research and I will soon be investigating alternative treatments for depression with Imperial College London. I hope in the future to study the interplay between depression, anxiety and substance misuse.

In this section

Blog Authors

Agata Kurczynska

Alexandra Alridge

Alice Middleton

Aline Maalouf

Alison Russell

Anna Svegborn

Anna Wong

Annalisa Occhipinti

Annika Brouwer

Anthea Bain

April Bowman

Ateka Tarajia

Barbara Bollig

Barbara Wittman

Bea Aldrich

Bethany Howarth & Ida Svenonius

Bonnie Samuyiwa

Carol Atack

Caroline Egleston

Caroline Sier

Caroline Vinall

Cat Darsley

Catherine Palmer

Cecilia Wong

Charlotte Fiehn

Cherish Watton

Christine Pungong

Clarissa Hjalmarsson

Connie Buettner

Dame Anne Owers

Disha Patel

Donna Baillie

Dorothy Heeneman

Dr Angela Morecroft

Dr Barbara Wittman

Dr Bryanna Fox

Dr Emanuela Orlando

Dr Henriette Hendriks and Dr Isobel Maddison

Dr Isobel Maddison

Dr Jo Johnson

Dr Louise Foxcroft

Dr Nicola Rose

Dr Sarah Morgan

Dr Yvonne Zivkovic

Elinor George, LCCBC President

Elizabeth Forbes

Elizabeth Jurd

Ellen Gage

Ellen Verde

Ellie Brown

Emma Sims

Eva Simmons

Florence Hazrat

Gem Duncan

Gemma Maitland

Georgia Good

Georgia Hume

Gill Heyworth

Glyn Maxwell

Hannah Hutchings-Georgiou

Helen Gibson

Hollie Wells

Ingrid Dixon

Isabel Clare

Jean Cosslett

Jeanette Ariano, Marketing Manager

Jen Aggleton

Jennifer Ellis

Jenny Ridge

Jessica Henry

Jessica Lim

Jessica Phillips

Jessie Ingle

Jillinda Tiley

Jo Harcus

Joanna Walker

Joanne Limburg

Jothi Reddy

Joy Haughton

Judith Roberts

Julia Hayes

Julia Nielsen

Kate Coghlan

Katerina Georgopoulou

Kathryn Handley

Ketaki Patel

Kyaelim Kwon

Laura Shepperson-Smith

Laura Tan

Leona Awoyele

Lindsay Malone

Lizzie Moore

Lottie Greenhaf

Lucia Linares

Madeleine Kasson

Mara González Souto

Marianna Kopsida

Marion Beauchamp

Marta Tomaselli

Mathilde Whitburn

Michelle Baikie

Molly Yarn

Myriam Goudet

Nenette Scrivener

Ning Sang Jessica Tan

Novriana Sumarti

Patricia Vazquez Rodriguez

Poly Frangou, Women's Captain

Priya Lele

Raisa Ostapenko

Richard Berengarten

Ruth Haynes

Salma Elnagar

Sarah Godlee

Sheelagh Drudy

Sheila Russell

Shoko Hirosue

Sofia Maroudia

Stephanie Ma

Sulema Jahangir

Susy Jepson

Suzanne Tonkin

Sylvia Lynn-Meaden

Tamara Micner

Tanya Brown

Teresa Ma

Tianqi Dong

Tilda Bowden

Tim Arnold

Tom Hawker-Dawson

Wai Wan (Vivian) SZE-TO

Wendy Pollard

Yun Chiang