Professor Alistair Compston and Professor Peter Jones
Psychiatry and Mental Health
The overall research mission of the Department of Psychiatry is to combine a detailed neuroscientific understanding of the brain mechanisms for cognition and symptoms with a broad awareness of genetic and phenotypic variability in the population over the course of the life-cycle. In short, we aim to do population neuroscience.
We bring together several key research disciplines to achieve this strategy including cognitive neuropsychology and neuroscience, neuroimaging and brain mapping, developmentally-orientated epidemiology. The study of brain connections is an emerging strength (Prof E T Bullmore, Dr J Suckling), particularly in a developmental context through the Wellcome Trust, Neuroscience in Psychiatry Network (NSPN) (Profs Bullmore, Goodyer and Jones.) Similarly, the study of inflammatory and immune mechanisms in psychiatric disorders is receiving increasing attention through the mental health theme of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (Profs Bullmore, Jones and O’Brien.)
Day-to-day research activity is highly collaborative but five domains emerge. Interaction between groups is facilitated by the Department’s research seminar programme and by the biennial half-day retreats initiated to promote interdisciplinary communication and understanding
Key research areas
Cognitive neuropsychology and neuropsychiatry
Clinical and experimental studies of psychiatric disorder (including substances abuse, ADHD, schizophrenia, OCD), Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and brain damage, dementias and other memory disorders, sleep disorders and seizure disorders, using psychopharmacological approaches, functional brain imaging with PET and functional MRI and genetic subtyping (Prof ET Bullmore, Dr PC Fletcher, Prof PB Jones, Prof J O’Brien, Dr H Ring, Prof BJ Sahakian, Dr J Suckling and Dr V Voon.)
Depression, mania and related affective disorders
Cognitive, neuroendocrine, neuroimaging and genetic studies. Psychosocial and epidemiological aspects, clinical anti-depressant studies (Prof IM Goodyer, Prof PB Jones, Prof BJ Sahakian, Dr Paul Wilkinson)
The Bernard Wolfe Health Neurosciences Group: (Bullmore, Chamberlain, Clayton, Fletcher, Goodyer, Simons; with O’Rahilly and Farooqi [Institute of Metabolic Science]) combines neuroscience, metabolic and pharmacological approaches to an understanding of appetite, satiety and health-related behaviour. Attracting philanthropic, industrial and Wellcome Trust support the group has expanded rapidly over recent years. Research achievements include the demonstration of the importance of motivational mechanisms in the neural component of obesity and health-related decision making; and stimulus-specific putamen/pallidal responses in obese people with binge eating are sensitive to altered μ-opioid function.
Cohort studies of the relationships between cognition, emotion, and health outcomes, with a positive psychology focus. Clinical and experimental studies of neural processes in emotional decision-making. Life-course epidemiology, neuroendocrinology, neuroimaging and genetic approaches (Prof ET Bullmore, Prof PC Fletcher, Prof BJ Sahakian and Dr P Wilkinson.)
Schizophrenia and psychosis
Studies into causation including factors operating in early life, epidemiology, neuroimaging, neuropsychology and treatment (Prof ET Bullmore, Prof PB Jones, Dr G Murray, Dr J Suckling.)
Interdisciplinary research including the biological, behavioural and social sciences and academic legal studies covering the following main themes:
1. developmental outcomes of people with specific syndromes associated with learning disabilities including Prader-Willi Syndrome and Down’s Syndrome;
2. clinical, ethical and legal issues relevant to health and social care practice in the field of learning disability;
3. people with learning and other developmental disabilities (such as autistic spectrum disorders), in the criminal justice, mental health, and other systems;
4. citizenship and advocacy
5. the neuropsychiatry of autistic spectrum disorder; and
6. the presentation and treatment of epilepsy in people with learning disability.
The Learning Disability Research Group is a member of the Centre for Participation that brings together people with learning disabilities and members of the University and statutory services to promote research in this field. The group also presently hosts the Eastern Region Learning Disability Research Network. (Dr ICH Clare, Prof AJ Holland, Dr M Redley Dr H Ring)
Autism and related conditions
The Autism Research Centre (Prof S Baron-Cohen) leads work on biology, detection and intervention in these conditions.
Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Neuropsychological and drug treatment studies of adults attending the ADHD Clinic (Dr U Muller (NHS) Prof BJ Sahakian)
Normal ageing, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders
Clinical and population-based studies of cognitive ageing and mental health, examining psychosocial determinants and neurobiological mechanisms of healthy and pathological ageing. Neuroimaging studies of age differences in cognitive function (Prof ET Bullmore, Dr PC Fletcher, Prof AJ Holland, Prof J O’Brien, Prof BJ Sahakian)
Mental health services research
RCTs in clinical and health service interventions. Clinical information system (register-based) research, including Mental Health Minimum Data and routine outcome measurement (Dr R Cardinal, Prof IM Goodyer Prof PB Jones), and the NIHR CLAHRC for the East of England.
Extensive interactions and ongoing collaborative projects with other University Departments, including Experimental Psychology, Institute of Public Health, Medical Genetics, Clinical Neuroscience, Institute of Criminology, Social and Political Sciences, History and Philosophy of Science, as well as the MRC/Wellcome Trust Behaivoural and Clinical Neurosciences Institute (BCNI), the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, the MRC Biostatistics Unit, the Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair and the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre. We have many national, international and industrial collaborations.