University of New South Wales
Research Field: Schizophrenia and Neuroimaging
Dr Thomas Whitford is world-leading scientist in the area of schizophrenia research. Specifically his research aims to understand why healthy patients are able to suppress self-produced sensations – for example, being unable to tickle oneself – while schizophrenia patients are unable to suppress these sensation – and are, in contrast, able to tickle themselves.
These self-suppression abnormalities provide a direct and plausible account for the tendency of schizophrenia patients to misattribute the origins of their own actions to external sources.
Thomas’ research focuses on current data that suggests these abnormalities can be ameliorated by delaying sensory feedback by a fraction of a second. This opens up the possibility of potentially ‘inoculating’ high risk individuals by exposing them to delayed feedback of their self-generated sensations.
The research has garnered substantial media attention and Thomas actively presents to the public. He has also volunteered at a drop-in centre for disadvantaged youths in Glebe – a so called ‘hot-spot’ for mental illness in Sydney.