Closing date for expressions of interest: Friday 26 February 2015, 11:55 p.m. Australian Eastern Daylight Time
A PhD scholarship, equivalent to an Australian Postgraduate Award, is available to examine treatment-induced compulsive behaviours in Parkinson’s disease. The Scholarship is provided by an Australia Research Council Discovery Early Career Award received by Dr Adrian Carter (2014-2017) entitled “Treatment-induced compulsive behaviours: Ethical and policy implications”.
Some medications can produce compulsive behaviours that challenge our understanding of decision-making and raise significant ethical questions about our control over and responsibility for our actions. Around one in five individuals receiving dopamine replacement therapy (DRT), usually for Parkinson’s disease, will develop severe compulsive behaviours or impulse control disorders (ICDs). These behaviours, which include pathological gambling, compulsive buying, hypersexuality, Internet addiction, and compulsive eating, can cause significant harm and distress to sufferers and their families. Individuals have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, homes and businesses from pathological gambling and compulsive buying, while others have developed a compulsive interest in sex that, in some cases, have resulted in criminal prosecutions. These conditions pose an imminent problem not only for these individuals, but also clinicians, judges and loved ones that deal with the consequences of these behaviours.
Very little is known about the impact that these disorders have upon those who suffer from them. Clinicians prescribe these medications with little ethical guidance, while courts make judgements on the culpability of compulsive actions in criminal cases that are minimally informed by the scientific literature. There is also little that can be done to prevent or ameliorate these behaviours other than stopping or reducing a medication that is essential to control life-threatening motor disturbances. There is therefore an urgent need to understand these conditions, the ethical and legal issues that they raise, and to develop more effective methods of minimising their occurrence or the harms that they cause.
The PhD Scholarship aims to:
1. Identify the ethical and legal issues raised by the use of dopaminergic drugs, such as DRT, that cause compulsive behaviour, and the implications they have for agency and moral responsibility.
2. Determine the impact of dopamine-induced compulsive behaviour on affected individuals, including their ability to control their behaviour, their understanding of these behaviours, and their sense of moral agency.
3. Increase knowledge and understanding of the impact of dopaminergic drugs on behaviour and decision-making
These aims will be achieved using three inter-related methodologies:
1. Critical ethical and policy analysis
2. Qualitative study of affected individuals and clinicians
3. Neuropsychological assessment of persons affected by these disorders.
For further information, including remuneration package, candidate requirements, and application details go here.
Enquiries should be directed to:
Dr Adrian Carter
School of Psychological Sciences
Telephone: +613 9902 9431