A/Prof Andrew Kemp PhD, MAPS

Position: Honorary Associate Professor  

Ph: +55 11 30919300

Postal Address:
Universidade de São Paulo
Avenida Professor Lineu Prestes, 2565
05508000 - São Paulo, SP - Brasil



I have an international recognition in the psychology and neuroscience of emotion and mood. Currently, I am in Brazil as an Invited International Visiting Professor working on the largest epidemiological study of the health and wellbeing of Brazilians at the Universidade de São Paulo.

Broadly, my research examines cognitive and emotional processing in humans, and the impact of psychiatric illness and their treatments on this processing. My research incorporates state-of-the-art techniques including genetics, functional neuroimaging, psychophysiology and neuropsychology. I have published my research in over 90 international and peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.

At the University of Sydney, I am involved in the supervision of PhD and DCP students in a variety of areas including psychophysiology, neuroimaging, psychopharmacology, positive psychology and meditation.


Recent Impact:

I have developed a productive program of research to better understand the relationship between mental and physical wellbeing. Recently, I have made important observations concerning the link between mood and anxiety disorders, alcohol dependence and a key measure of cardiovascular function called heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is a sensitive and robust indicator of autonomic balance and predictor of future mortality.

Together, my research indicates that heart-rate variability in otherwise healthy patients with depression, anxiety and alcohol dependence is reduced, and that a variety of antidepressants do not reverse the observed reductions, emphasising an evidence-based, public health message that patients presenting with, and being treated for these disorders should consider comprehensive cardiovascular risk reduction strategies.



I am always interested in possibilities to collaborate with other researchers and encourage potential students to contact me to discuss research opportunities.


Selected Publications:

Kemp, A.H., Quintana, D.S., Felmingham, K.L., Matthews, S., Jelinek, H.F. (in press). Depression, comorbid anxiety disorders and heart rate variability in physically healthy, unmedicated patients: Implications for cardiovascular risk. PLoS ONE. Accepted 27 December 2011. (2010 IF: 4.411; citations: n/a)
Identified major depressive disorder with comorbid generalised anxiety as a psychiatric indicator for comprehensive cardiovascular risk reduction strategies.

Kemp, A. H., & Guastella, A. J. (2011). The role of oxytocin in human affect: A novel hypothesis. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(4), 222-231. [abstract]
We shifted the debate on the impact of oxytocin towards approach- and withdrawal-related behaviors, highlighting that oxytocin increases approach-related behaviors including negative social emotions, while decreasing withdrawal-related behaviors.

Kemp, A.H., Quintana, D.S., Felmingham, K.L., Gray, M.A., Brown, K., Gatt, J.M. (in press). Impact of depression and antidepressant treatment on heart rate variability: a review and meta-analysis. Biological Psychiatry. 2010 Feb 5. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 20138254.
Demonstrated that antidepressants do not reverse reductions in heart rate variability (HRV), an important biological marker associated with clinical depression. HRV is the best measure for predicting fatal cardiac arrhythmia. [abstract]

Kemp, A.H., Guastella, A.J. (2010). Oxytocin: prosocial behavior, social salience or approach-related behaviour? Biological Psychiatry. 2010 Jan 6. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 20060102.
We shifted the debate on the impact of oxytocin towards approach- and withdrawal-related behaviors, highlighting that oxytocin increases approach-related behaviors including negative social emotions, while decreasing withdrawal-related behaviors. [abstract]

Kemp, A.H., Hopkinson, P.J., Hermens, D.F., Rowe, D.L., Sumich, A.L., Clark, C.R., et al., (2009). Fronto-temporal alterations within the first 200ms during an attentional task distinguish major depression, non-clinical participants with depressed mood and healthy controls: a potential biomarker? Human Brain Mapping, 30(2): 602-14.
Demonstrated a strong relationship between depression severity and augmentation of the P200 electrophysiological component, indicating a biomarker of attentional impairment in depression. [abstract]

Gatt, J.M., Nemeroff, C.B., Dobson-Stone, C., Paul, R.H., Bryant, R.A., Schofield, P.R., Gordon, E., Kemp, A.H., Williams, L.M. (2009). Interactions between BDNF Val66Met polymorphism and early life stress predict brain and arousal pathways to syndromal depression and anxiety. Molecular Psychiatry. 2009 Jul;14(7):681-95. Epub 2009 Jan 20. PMID: 19153574.
I conducted key parts of the experiment and data interpretation, which isolated differential gene-brain-behaviour pathways in depression and anxiety despite substantial overlaps in symptoms. [abstract]

Kemp, A.H., Gordon, E., Rush, A.J., Williams, L.M., (2008). Improving the prediction of treatment response in depression: Integration of clinical, cognitive, psychophysiological, neuroimaging and genetic measures. CNS Spectrums, 13(12):1066-86; Quiz 1087-88.
Compelling evidence for a method to improve the prediction that a particular patient with depression will respond to a particular treatment. [abstract]

Felmingham, K., Kemp, A.H., Williams, L.M., Das, P., Hughes, G., Peduto, A., Bryant, R. (2007). Changes in anterior cingulate and amygdala after cognitive behaviour therapy of posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychological Science, 18, 127-29. PMID: 17425531.
First evidence that successful exposure-based treatment of PTSD is associated with increased rostral anterior cingulate and decreased amygdala activation during processing of fearful stimuli. [abstract]

Williams, L.M., Brown, K.J., Palmer, D., Liddell, B.J., Kemp, A.H., Olivieri, G., Peduto, A.S., Gordon, E (2006). The ‘mellow years’: Neural basis of improving emotional stability over age. Journal of Neuroscience, 26, 6422-30.
I completed key aspects of the data analysis, which revealed that emotional functions may improve with age, contrary to the pervasive negative sterotypes of human aging. [abstract]

Williams, L.M., Das, P., Liddell, B.J., Kemp, A.H., Rennie, C.J., Gordon, E. (2006). Mode of functional connectivity in amygdala pathways dissociates level of awareness for signals of fear. Journal of Neuroscience, 26, 9264-71.
I contributed to interpretation of data and revision of the manuscript, which reported that awareness depends on brain connectivity, a significant advance over previous studies, which focus on specific structures. [abstract]

Bryant, R.A., Felmingham, K.L., Kemp, A.H.; Barton, M., Rennie, C., Gordon, E., Williams, L.M. (2005). Neural Networks of Information Processing in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder:  A Functional MRI Study. Biological Psychiatry, 58, 111-18. PMID: 16038681. (2005 IF: 6.779; citations: 46).
I contributed to all aspects of this study, which demonstrated that brain dysregulation in PTSD is stimulus dependent. Previous models of PTSD are based on generalised patterns of impairment. [abstract]

Kemp, A.H., Gray, M.A., Silberstein, R.B., Armstrong, S.M. & Nathan, P.J. (2005). Augmentation of Serotonin Enhances Pleasant and Suppresses Unpleasant Electrophysiological Responses to Visual Emotional Stimuli in Humans. NeuroImage, 22, 1084-96. (2005 IF: 5.288; citations: 31).
Discovered that 1 dose of an antidepressant impacts on the processing of emotion stimuli. This is important considering antidepressants can take 3 to 4 weeks for observable behaviour to change. [abstract]


Media Commentary:

A/Prof Kemp has published a series of articles on depression and it's treatment in The Conversation – an independent source of information, analysis and commentary from the university and research sector.

  • 'Depression can break your heart, literally': Having a “broken” or a “heavy” heart is a description often used by people who are feeling down or depressed. It turns out they’re not that far off the mark…
  • Telling the difference between depression and anxiety disorders: Mental health disorders have a major impact on our ability to function in the home and at work. A third of the population will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, and a fifth will experience a mood disorder. While depression and anxiety are characterised as distinct syndromes, they co-occur in over half of all cases. So are they different presentations of the same disorder? …
  • Beyond Spirituality: The role of meditation in mental health: Meditation has traditionally been associated with Eastern mysticism but science is beginning to show that cultivating a "heightened" state of consciousness can have a major impact on our brain, the way our bodies function and our levels of resilience…
  • Proof of the pill: cutting out the guesswork in prescribing antidepressants: Voltaire was right when he said "doctors prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less". Almost 300 years later, this still rings true for depression…
  • Selling sickness or dulling the pain? The pros and cons of antidepressants: It's normal to feel down in the dumps from time to time, so drawing a line between low moods and mental illness is understandably fraught. But are health professionals treating normal sadness as a clinical disorder and over-prescribing antidepressants?