Dr Adrienne Withall
Senior Lecturer

Dr Adrienne Withall

BSc (Hons) University of Sydney, 1997 (Majors: Psychology and Physiology)

PhD University of Sydney, 2006 (Neuropsychology)

School of Psychology

Research Interests:

Dr Withall is a combined track ageing and mental health specialist in the School of Psychology and is of Dharawal, Yuin, Scottish and English heritage. Her research focuses on promoting cognitive health and wellbeing for priority populations. She leads a sub-stream on Ageing at the Margins in the recently funded UNSW Ageing Futures Institute and equity and digital innovation in cognitive assessment is a key focus of this research (https://research.unsw.edu.au/ageingfutures/ageing-futures-institute-home). In particular, Dr Withall is leading NHMRC-funded research to leverage serious games for novel cognitive assessments. 

Adrienne is a mid career researcher (7 years post-PhD research FTE), and author of 60 journal publications, an edited book Alcohol and the Adult Brain, and 5 book chapters. Her research is highly cited and she has a h-index of 25, with 2568 citations. Her expertise is on young onset dementia, particularly priority populations at risk of accelerated cognitive decline (including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people with harms from drug and alcohol, older justice-involved people). She uses mixed methods to aid the translation of her research into policy and clinical practice.

She partners regularly with a range of stakeholders, including Aboriginal communities (e.g. Marcia Ella Duncan and the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council to design the first on-country experience for UNSW medical students), people with Lived Experience (e.g. via the Black Dog Institute) community organisations (e.g. Dementia Australia), health services (e.g. Northern Sydney Local Health District Drug and Alcohol Services, NSW Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network) & industry partners (e.g. Flourish Australia, Corrective Services NSW). She has served as an Advocate for people with young onset dementia on various working parties and policy groups, as well as during the Senate Enquiry on Younger People in Residential Care.

Adrienne is currently an Executive Board member of the Australian Young Onset Dementia Special Interest Group and a member of the International Indigenous Dementia Research Network. She is also a Management Committee Member of the SPHERE Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Clinical Academic Group, the UNSW Medicine and Health Aboriginal Sovereign Strategy Group, the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District Dual Diagnosis Substance Use & Neurocognitive Disorder Working Group and an elected Member of the Medicine and Health Faculty Board. 

Dr Withall regularly reviews grants for national (e.g. NHMRC, ARC, Dementia Australia Research Foundation, Bupa Health Foundation) as well as international grant bodies (such as UK Medical Research Council, Alzheimer's Research UK, Wellcome Trust, Health Research Board Ireland and Netherlands Organisation of Health, Research and Development). She also regularly serves on NHMRC grant panels.

Adrienne currently supervises PhD, DrPH, Masters, and Honours/ILP students. 

+61 2 9065 7265
School of Psychology Room 903, Level 9, Mathews Building, Kensington Campus, UNSW

Current Grants

Dr Withall is currently leading an NHMRC Ideas Grant (2021-2023, $845,000) to investigate "Audio app-delivered Screening for Cognition and Age-related health in Prisoners (ASCAPE)”, which is leveraging gamification to design innovative tools to measure health and cognition. She is also a CI with the "ON Track: Promoting brain health with older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples" Centre of Research Excellence (2021-2026, $3,000,000). She is also a Chief Investigator on an MRFF COVID-19 grant examining a text mining and data linkage approach to investigate the mental health needs of the population during the COVID-19 period (2021-2022) and is Lead Investigator on an investigator-initiated clinical trial funded by the Ageing Futures Institute and an Industry partner examining inflammaging, the microbiome and frailty (2021-2022).

Her other currently funded research includes the relationships between river health and mental health for Aboriginal people living in Menindee (funded by the Plus Alliance), health and wellbeing impacts of the Deadly Runners program (funded by the Ageing Futures Institute), and understanding the health needs of younger people with disabilities discharged from hospital to residential aged care (funded by the Summer Foundation).

My Research Supervision

Current UNSW Postgraduate Students

Primary/Joint supervisor

Mr Mark Orr AM: Enhancing the mental health workforce: Acceptability and efficacy of on-line peer support for adults with a lived experience of a mental health issue (part-time).

Ms Ellen Finlay: Social and political power asymmetries in health outcomes between older Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians (part-time).

Mr Amanuel Kidane: (Scientia Scholarship) Care pathways for older people in prison in NSW.

Dr Sharon Reutens: (Scientia Scholarship) Management of older people in the justice system.

Ms Milena Katz (Aust RTP Scholarship): Inflammageing, frailty and the microbiome. 

Mr Rhys Mantell: A serious game approach to understand and detect cognitive impairment issues in marginalised populations.

Dr Mariam Soomro (Pakistan Govt Scholarship): Improving the surveillance, prediction and prevention of head injuries in rugby union.

Dr Patrick Stewart: Drug overdose and subclinical cognitive impairment.

Secondary supervisor

Mr Vincent Poisson: How to facilitate help-seeking in male supporters of people with dementia. 

My Teaching

Dr Withall teaches into Phases 1 and 2 of the undergraduate Medical Program, lecturing on diverse areas such as mental health, ageing, dementia, cultural competence and developing reflective practitioner and critical thinking skills. She is also Co-Convenor of the Phase 2 Society and Health course. At a postgraduate level, she convenes the course Public Health Aspects of Mental Health (PHCM9761), which is run with the Black Dog Institute as a Partner. Previously she taught at the University of Sydney through the Faculty of Health Sciences, teaching a diverse mix of allied health professionals about health psychology, research methods and neuropsychology.