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About us

FANS is one of Europe’s largest research groups and one of the few teams in the world bringing together leading experts in brain development and pro and antisocial behaviours across the lifespan. 

We are part of the IOPPN, world-renowned for the quality of its research and for producing more highly cited publications in psychiatry and mental health (Scopus, 2016) than any other university in the world. 

Our research status is reflected by our contributions to the 2014 UK Research Excellence Framework. Ranked 2nd in the country for power, the IoPPN achieved a 100% 4* rating for its research environment, indicating our impact was judged to be ‘world-leading’.

With staff globally-recognised as innovators of high-quality translational research, we maintain strong links with our clinical and forensic partners ensuring our research and teaching can be transferred to improve healthcare and patient outcomes with ease and speed.  

Our research-led teaching attracts students from around the world providing them with excellent learning opportunities, supported by strong partnerships with NHS trusts including South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLAM) provider of the widest range of NHS mental health services in the UK, along with industry and healthcare organisations.

Our work is funded by large scale grants from leading agencies including the Medical Research CouncilWellcome TrustNational Institute of Health ResearchNational Institutes of Health (USA)The Sackler Foundation, and the European Union. 


Research streams

We cover two research streams: 

  • Neurodevelopmental - researching the disorder of brain function affecting emotion, learning ability, self-control and memory which evolves as an individual develops and grows.

  • Forensic - investigating the complex relationship between mental disorders and criminal behaviour.


Focused on creating innovative solutions to real-life problems, our research themes include:

The Psychoses

  • The neurobiology of the psychoses

  • Genetic determinants of the psychoses, using VCFS as a model

  • Abnormalities in brain structure and function of people with schizophrenia

  • The effect of COMT gene deletion on brain structure, function and psychopathology

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and disorders of social behaviour

  • Brain structure, ‘connectivity’ and function in people with Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD),and psychopaths.

  • The neuropsychology of people with ASD.

  • The functional neuroanatomy of emotion processing and executive function in healthy humans, psychopaths, and those with ASD.

  • The serotonergic system in ASD.

  • Glutamate/GABA in ASD.

  • Normal development of ‘social brain’.

  • Twin studies of ASD.

  • Effect of candidate genes on brain in ASD.

  • Longitudinal studies of brain myelination in healthy children and those with ASD.

  • The neurobiology of ‘cold and aloof’ children.

  • The neurobiology of language development. 

Neurobiology of violence

  • Neurobiological and environmental determinants of repetitive violence in people with schizophrenia

  • Genetic and environmental determinants of aggression in healthy humans, and those with mild learning disability.

  • Response of violent behaviour to pharmacological treatment.

Brain development and ageing

  • Normal human brain development, and infant brain function.

  • The effect of birth trauma on brain development.

  • The biology of ADHD

  • The role of the X chromosome and sex steroids in brain development and ageing

  • The effect of the X chromosome aneuploidy on brain structure/function

  • The effect of the X chromosome CGG triplet repeats on brain structure/function

  • The effect of oestrogen on brain ageing.

  • Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Endocrine Factors and the brain

  • The role of oestrogen in brain development and ageing.

  • The effect of the intra-uterine environment of social behaviour and brain development.

  • The interaction of sex hormones, brain function, and neurochemical systems.

  • The biological basis of mood disorder, and hot flashes, in perimenopausal women.

Intellectual disabilities

  • Genetic syndromes and associated psychopathology – phenotypes, neurobiology, and mechanisms

  • Diagnosis and management of mental disorders

  • Interventions for problem behaviour

  • Optimisation of psychotropic drug prescribing 

Down syndrome

  • Mechanisms of cognitive development across the lifespan  

  • Health and mental health co-morbidities – diagnosis and management

  • Cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease  - early diagnosis, mechanisms and neurobiology, and treatment 

Clinical trials

We are a leading centre for clinical trials of treatments for conditions  associated with Autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities


Projects and research groups

Our Neurodevelopmental research covers: Mental disorders; how conditions are transmitted from parents to offspring; how conditions are found, spread and controlled in groups; the biology of the nervous system; and the use of medication in the treatment of autistic spectrum disorders and ADHD across the lifespan. 

Selected projects


EU AIMS LEAP (Longitudinal European Autism Project)

ABC: Altering Behaviour in Children 

BIBS - Brain Imaging in Babies

The London Down syndrome Consortium

We are  a large, multidisciplinary group of clinicians, human geneticists,

developmental psychologists, mouse geneticists, psychiatrists and cellular scientists

working towards understanding dementia in people with Down syndrome. Find out more here

Dementia in Intellectual Disabilities Special Interest Group (DID-SIG)

The DID-SIG is an independent group composed of clinicians (including clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists and nurses) from across the UK and beyond who have a special interest in dementia in people with intellectual disabilities. Find out more here.

HEROES: The Locus coeruleus at the cross-roads of dementia syndromes

HEROES’s goal is to uncover underlying pathogenic mechanisms, and explore these as potentially common pathways in AD, DS and PD and their therapeutic relevance. Find out more here.

Forensic Research Group 

The Forensic Research Group explores the complex relationship between mental disorders and crime. Find out more here.

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