Molecular Psychiatry Laboratory
Our group seeks to identify the changes in gene expression that contribute to the onset of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and suicide. Our approach is based on the understanding that clinically definable psychiatric disorders occur in people with a genetic predisposition who have encountered as yet unknown environmental factors. This interaction between genes and environment is then known to affect gene expression by a variety of epigenetic mechanisms. As psychiatric disorders primarily affect the human CNS we have a strong focus on studying gene expression in the CNS of people with psychiatric disorders and those who have died by suicide. On identifying changes in gene expression we then use an array of animal and cellular models to better understand the mechanisms that have brought about such a change in expression in the human CNS.
Unlike some neurodegenerative disorders, some drugs have been developed that can be used to treat the symptoms in some people with psychiatric disorders, albeit with varying success. Therefore our group also seeks to understand the mechanisms of action of such drugs, which in the main remain obscure.
The major goal of the group, through the study of the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders and suicide, as well as the mechanisms of action of psychotropic drugs, is to generate information that may point to new potential drug targets that will either improve outcomes in currently treatment responsive treatment and / or lead to the development of drugs that will be effective in currently treatment resistant people.
A glimpse at our researchUnderstanding the role of the zinc transporter ZIP12 in schizophreniaInvestigating the involvement of the serotonin 2A receptor in the incidence of suicideInvestigating the effect of antipsychotic drugs on the levels of TNF receptor in the brainDetermining whether muscarinic cholinergic receptors contribute to the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease
The Biological Psychiatry and Mental Health division encompasses research into the causes of psychoses (including schizophrenia and mood disorders). Research also extends into discovering biomarkers using longitudinal cohorts of volunteers who are prepared to be followed up over many years. This creates an infrastructure which is then amenable for drug discovery and development.