The Department of Psychological Medicine focuses on the interface between psychiatry and medicine, psychiatry and occupation, psychiatry and the military, and psychiatry in different settings. The disorders of interest are those of the common mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, perinatal psychiatry, eating disorders and stress related disorders. The principal research methodologies used within the department are epidemiological, clinical and psychological research, including cross sectional studies, cohort studies and randomised controlled trials. The Head of the Department is Professor Simon Wessely, Chair of Psychological Medicine, who is also Vice Dean for Academic Psychiatry.
Psychological Medicine as a Department and as part of the Clinical Academic Group (CAG) with the same name has a unique position within King’s Health Partners as crossing the divide between psychiatry and medicine. Professors Matthew Hotopf and Simon Wessely provide the academic leadership for the CAG. Several members of the Mood, Anxiety and Personality Disorders CAG at King’s Health Partners are also part of the Department of Psychological Medicine.
The Department is responsible for teaching psychiatry and psychology to medical students at the King’s College London School of Medicine, one of the largest schools of medicine in the UK. The Department also runs postgraduate taught programmes, including the MSc in War and Psychiatry, the MSc in Family Therapy and the Graduate Certificate in Family Therapy. Once a year, the Department organises training course for European psychiatrists, known as The Maudsley Forum. The Maudsley Forum offers psychiatry trainees and junior specialists with research interests the opportunity to learn about recent advances in psychiatry from a host of leading experts.
In addition to research and teaching activities, the Department organises many events each year to share its expertise with others working in the field as well as service users, carers and the general public. The regular Maudsley Debates, for example, have been held at the IoP since January 2000. There are up to three debates each year, open to the public, and topics are usually controversial.
Senior members of the department offer supervision to students wishing to undertake a Ph D – there are more than 40 Ph D students working within Psychological Medicine on a diverse range of projects. Potential Ph D students should visit the Education Support Team pages to find out more. Students from outside KCL wishing to undertake work in the area of military health should also read the guidance on the KCMHR web pages. PhD students are supervised and supported within one or more of the main research groups within the Department, depending on their specific research interests. These groups are listed below.
Research groups within the Department of Psychological Medicine:
The King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) is a joint initiative between the Department of Psychological Medicine and the Department of War Studies in the IoP’s sister School of Social Science and Public Policy at King’s College London. The Academic Centre for Defence Mental Health (ACDMH) is a unique partnership between the Department and the Ministry of Defence. We are one of the major international centres specialising in military health from an occupational, epidemiological, social, historical and public health perspective. As well as over 150 publications we have had policy impact in areas such as prevention of operational stress, the mental health of reservists, and forces health protection including vaccination, tour length, provision of mental health and policy towards ex service personnel (“veterans”). The Centre is currently investigating (1) the impact of service in Iraq and Afghanistan on the physical and mental health of current and ex UK military personnel; (2) the mental health of personnel currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan; (3) pre and post operational stress management; (4) informed choice, consent and the medium/long term side effects of anthrax.
Perinatal Psychiatry and the Stress, Psychiatry and Immunology laboratory(SPI-Lab) seek to understand the body’s response to stress and whether it contributes to the manifestation of psychological symptoms. The research spans a variety of clinical settings, with a particular emphasis on clinical conditions where there are prominent changes in stress hormones, such as women in the perinatal period (and their infants), depression, first-episode psychosis, and patients with medical disorders such as viral hepatitis and coronary heart disease.
The Section of Eating Disorders aims to find out more about the neurobiological, genetic and psychological causes of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders, and to use that knowledge to develop new and better treatments
The Diabetes and Mental Health programme is jointly run with the Diabetes CAG. The main aims of this programme are (1) to understand the psychological, biological and social processes that lead to depression in diabetes and to worse biomedical outcomes, and (2) to evaluate the effectiveness of psychopharmacological and innovative psychological treatments for improving diabetes control as well as psychological functioning. Studies include an NIHR funded cohort study of the effects of depression and other psychological factors on biomedical outcomes in nearly 2000 people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes; an NIHR funded cluster randomized controlled trial comparing the effectiveness of psychological treatment and diabetes care versus diabetes care delivered by practice nurses in improving glycaemic control; and a study examining the effects of depression on the levels of inflammatory markers over 2 years in patients with diabetes.
The Promoting Early Presentation Group aims to provide evidence to inform policy and practice to tackle the burden of avoidable death due to delay in presentation in people with symptomatic cancer, in particular women with symptomatic breast cancer. Studies focus on developing, evaluating and implementing interventions to promote cancer awareness and early presentation and on building evidence to support the pathway from cancer awareness and beliefs, early presentation, and survival in cancer
The main research focus of the Family Therapy Section has been the evaluation of psychological treatments for eating disorders, drug addiction, depression, chronic pain and adolescent self-harm.
The Chronic Fatigue Research and Treatment Unit is jointly run with King’s College Hospital: this national specialist service undertakes assessment, treatment and research. Researchers are involved, for example, in the MRC PACE Trial, the largest trial of treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME to date, which is testing the effectiveness of different therapies. Research into the contribution of neuroendocrinological and other neurobiological factors in CFS/ME is conducted with the Chronic Fatigue Research and Treatment Unit, a national specialist service run jointly by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the Section of General Hospital Psychiatry.
The Section of Trauma Studies conducts research into the psychological consequences of mass trauma – including wars, political violence, torture and natural disasters – and develops effective treatments for survivors.
The Section of General Hospital Psychiatry investigates the grey areas between medicine and psychiatry: how psychological health can affect physical illness and vice versa. Researchers seek to understand, for example, how a patient’s state of mind can affect how quickly they recover from illness or how well they cope with a diagnosis of a chronic disease. The groups also studies, develops and trials treatments for debilitating illnesses that either currently lack medical explanation or involve both body and mind. Some of the varied research interests within the group include understanding: the cause and treatment of ‘idiopathic environmental intolerance;’ the health and social impact of public health crises; substitute decision-making and supportive decision-making in healthcare; the management of medically unexplained symptoms and syndromes; the relationship between mental health measures and mortality and the epidemiology of common mental disorders.
The Affective Disorders Research Group works to understand more about the neurobiological causes of mood disorders (also known as affective disorders); mental illnesses where the normal functioning of mood is disrupted, including clinical depression and bipolar disorder. Much of this work is carried out with patients at the National Affective Disorders Unit, part of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s National Division. The Group is interested in measuring and improving clinical outcomes of patients with severe affective disorders, and in looking at biological correlates of affective disorders and biomarkers of treatment response. Methodologies used include neuroimaging (using functional MRI, structural MRI and PET), neuroendocrinology, including a dedicated laboratory at the Bethlem Royal Hospital, psychophysiology, immunology and inflammation.
The main focus of the research undertaken by the Neuropsychiatry Research Group is memory disorder – ranging from amnesic syndromes as a result of head injury, stroke or brain disease, to different types of dementia, confabulation (false memories as a result of brain damage), other sorts of false memory and psychogenic amnesia. There are active collaborations with IoP and Guy’s andSt Thomas’s colleagues in studies of neuropsychological and neuroimaging change in asymptomatic HIV patients. The group are also participating in a £2 million NIHR programme grant on encephalitis.