Associate Professor Thomas Whitford

Associate Professor Thomas Whitford

Associate Professor Thomas Whitford

Associate Professor and NHMRC Career Development Fellow

B.Psych (Hons I), University of Sydney, 2000
Ph.D., University of Sydney, 2007
Post-doc, Harvard University, 2008-2010
Post-doc, University of Melbourne, 2010-2011

Contact details

Phone: (02) 9385 3936
Email: Associate Professor Thomas Whitford
Fax: (02) 9385 3641

Office: Mathews, Room 913

Research Summary

Research Areas

Sensory attenuation (a.k.a. ‘self-suppression’): the phenomenon that self-generated sensations feel less salient, and evoke a smaller brain response, than externally-generated sensations. The difficulty of tickling oneself is a classic example.

Inner speech: the silent production of words in one’s mind. I am particularly interested in developing objective, neurophysiological markers of this purely mental action.

Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders: my research attempts to understand the neural basis of these disorders, with the ultimate aim of informing treatment. My research focuses primarily on psychotic symptoms (hallucinations and delusions), and the idea that these experiences may reflect self-generated thoughts and actions being misattributed to external forces.

Schizotypy: a cluster of personality characteristics (e.g., magical thinking, suspiciousness) which are related to psychosis but which commonly occur in the general population.

Commonly used techniques: Electroencephalography (EEG), particularly Event-Related Potentials (ERPs). Also Diffusion-Tensor Imaging (DTI), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

 Current Research Projects:

 -         Developing an electrophysiological marker of inner speech

-          Understanding self-suppression

-          Investigating self-suppression and inner speech in people with schizophrenia 

Teaching

PSYC1011 – Psychology 1B

PSYC2101 – Assessment, Personality and Psychopathology

Publications

Selected Publications

-          Whitford TJ, Jack BN, Pearson D, Griffiths O, Luque D, Harris AWF, Spencer KM, Le Pelley ME. (2017). Neurophysiological evidence of efference copies to inner speech. eLife, 6, e28197. https://elifesciences.org/articles/28197

-          Whitford TJ, Oestreich LKL, Ford JM, Roach BJ, Loewy RL, Stuart BK, Mathalon DH. (in press, published online 29 November 2017). Deficits in cortical suppression during vocalization are associated with structural abnormalities in the arcuate fasciculus in early Illness schizophrenia and clinical high risk for psychosis. Schizophrenia Bulletin. https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbx144

-          Whitford TJ, Ford JM, Mathalon DH, Kubicki M, Shenton ME. (2012). Schizophrenia, myelination, and delayed corollary discharges: A hypothesis. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 38(3), 486-494. https://doi:10.1093/schbul/sbq105

-          Whitford TJ, Mathalon DH, Shenton ME, Roach BJ, Bammer R, Adcock RA, Bouix S, Kubicki M, De Siebenthal J, Rausch AC, Schneiderman JS, Ford JM. (2011). Electrophysiological and diffusion tensor imaging evidence of delayed corollary discharges in patients with schizophrenia. Psychological Medicine, 41(5), 959-969. https://doi:10.1017/S0033291710001376  

-          Whitford TJ, Kubicki M, Schneiderman JS, O'Donnell LJ, King R, Alvarado JL, Khan U, Markant D, Nestor PG, Niznikiewicz M, McCarley RW, Westin C-F, Shenton ME. (2010). Corpus callosum abnormalities and their association with psychotic symptoms in patients with schizophrenia. Biological Psychiatry, 68(1), 70-77. https://doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.03.025 

For a full listing of all of my publications, please view my UNSW Research Gateway profile.

Awards, Fellowships & Grants

Research Funding

2017-2019: Whitford TJ, Spencer KM, Harris AWF. Deciphering the electrophysiological signature of inner speech. Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project, DP170103094, AU$304,000.

2015-2018: Whitford TJ. Distinguishing self from world: understanding the neural basis of schizophrenia. NHMRC Career Development Fellowship, APP1090507, AU$411,768

2014-2017: Whitford TJ, Le Pelley M, Luque, D. Understanding prediction errors: interrogating the brain's lingua franca. Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project, DP140104394. AU$346,000

2014-2016: Le Pelley M, Morris R, Green M, Whitford TJ, Killcross S. Prediction error processing in schizophrenia. National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) Project Grant, APP1069487. AU$243,447

2014-2016: Amminger GP, Pantelis C, Whitford TJ, Whittle S, Fornito A, Hermens D. Erythrocyte Membrane Fatty Acid Concentrations and Myelin Integrity in Young People at Ultra-High Risk of Psychosis. National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) Project Grant, APP1067040, AU$390,879

2013-2016: Felmingham K, Malhi G, Whitford TJ, Quirk G, Das P. National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) Project Grant. Neural and Genetic Predictors of Response to Exposure Therapy In Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, APP1050848. AU$377,961

Awards

2017 + 2016: Postgraduate Research Supervisor Award. UNSW Arc Postgraduate Council

2015: Australian Psychological Society (APS) Outstanding Lecturer of the Year Award (Sydney Branch)

2014: Young Tall Poppy Science Award (New South Wales). Australian Institute of Policy and Science. 

2013: UNSW Faculty of Science Staff Excellence Award for Teaching

2011: Barbara and John Streicker Young Investigator Award, National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

 

Current Research Students

-          Dr Bradley Jack (Postdoctoral Fellow)

-          Ms Ruth Elijah (PhD candidate)

-          Mr Sol Libesman (PhD candidate; jointly supervised with Dr Damien Mannion)

-          Mr Nathan Han (PhD candidate)

Lab Alumni

-          Dr Nathan Mifsud (PhD awarded 2017)

-          Dr Lena Oestreich (PhD awarded 2016)