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Postgraduate Research

Postgraduate research

Psychosis Studies MPhil/PhD

The Department of Psychosis Studies is home to over 50 doctoral researchers. We offer students supervision from academics with expertise in many areas of psychosis to pursue a PhD degree.

The research carried out by the Department is focused on the aetiology and mechanisms underlying psychosis, and on the development of new treatments for psychotic disorders. Research studies may involve people with subclinical symptoms, groups at high risk, and patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 

We welcome approaches from prospective students:

1. Please see academic staff profiles to learn about their research interests.

2. Contact potential supervisors by email to request information and register your interest.

Read the how to apply documentation for further information about the application process and funding options.

Potential PhD students should also visit the Education Support Team pages and the online prospectus to find out more.

Example PhD projects

Using smartphone technologies

Using smartphone technologies to investigate the impact of the urban environment in psychosis.

The urban environment is comprised of a mixture of “adverse” features that increase social stress resulting in greater risk of mental illness (e.g. overcrowding), and “protective” features that decrease social stress and may even promote mental health (e.g. access to nature). The impact of these features varies greatly from one individual to another depending on their reactivity to social stress, which is known to be impaired in psychosis. My study will use a smartphone app to investigate whether people with first episode psychosis will show aberrant reactivity to the urban environment in real-time and whether this aberrant reactivity to adverse and protective features of the urban environment will be predictive of poor clinical outcomes (i.e. psychotic relapse and hospitalisations).

Student: Ryan Hammoud

Investigating structural abnormalities

Investigating structural abnormalities in first episode psychosis using deep learning.

Machine learning is an area of artificial intelligence that aims to develop algorithms that discover patterns in data. Deep learning (DL) is a family of machine learning methods capable of achieving very high levels of complexity and abstraction and therefore may be a good tool to capture the subtle and spatially diffuse pattern of neuroanatomical abnormalities typically found in psychosis. The aim of this PhD is to test how well DL techniques perform when applied to structural MRI data to distinguish individuals at the early stages of psychosis from healthy controls, as well as how can we use DL to integrate data from different centres to achieve larger sample sizes in neuroimaging studies.

Student: Sandra Vieira

Supervisor: Andrea Mechelli

The Neurobiology of Response to Clozapine

The Neurobiology of Response to Clozapine in Treatment-Resistant Schizophrenia.

My PhD project investigates brain network functionality in relation to clozapine response in patients with treatment-resistant schizophrenia (TRS). Whilst clozapine is the only recommended antipsychotic for TRS, initiation is often delayed due to potentially serious adverse effects and regular blood monitoring. Importantly, only between 40-70% of patients receiving it improve adequately. My work aims to examine whether measuring brain blood flow in TRS patients using resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) and arterial spin labelling (ASL) can predict clozapine response, and whether these parameters change in relation to the degree of such response. This can aid the development of non-invasive tests used by clinicians to predict in advance whether patients are likely to respond to the drug or not, thereby enabling earlier initiation or avoidance of clozapine. Additionally, identifying the neurobiological signature of clozapine response can help the development of new drugs with fewer side effects for TRS. 

Student: Kyra-Verena Sendt

Supervisors: Dr Alice Egerton (primary) and Dr Fernando Zelaya

Dopamine and brain resting state networks

The dopamine and dysconnectivity hypotheses of schizophrenia are two of the main theories seeking to map a neurobiological basis for psychotic symptomatology. The current study aims to investigate the links between neurochemistry and neural functional connectivity, and in doing so build common ground between these theoretical models. I am using positron emission tomography (PET) and resting state fMRI to investigate relationships between dopamine, and the functioning of brain networks. In addition to probing these physiological relationships, I am investigating how aberrant functioning of these systems may underlie psychotic symptoms.

Student: Dr Rob McCutcheon

Supervisors: Oliver Howes, Mitul Mehta, Philip McGuire

Treatment Resistant Schizophrenia (TRS)

My PhD is looking at treatment resistant schizophrenia (TRS) and whether TRS can be predicted using only information available at disease onset. To do this I am combining multiple first-episode psychosis cohorts contributed by research groups all over the world. We will perform a genome-wide analysis study (GWAS) to develop a polygenic risk score for treatment resistant schizophrenia. This score will be combined with clinical, social, and neuropsychological data, to build a model predicting risk of developing treatment resistance. 

Student: Sophie Smart

Supervisors: James MacCabe, Robin Murray, Paul O'Reilly

Example publications

2017
Appiah-Kusi, Elizabeth Ashok, Abhishekh Beck, Katherine Bhavsar, Vishal Calem, Maria Colizzi, Marco De Micheli, Andrea Gillespie, Amy Jauhar, Sameer Lopez-Morinigo, Javier

The role of premorbid personality and social cognition in suicidal behaviour in first-episode psychosis: a one-year follow-up study

Canal-Rivero, M., Lopez-Moriñigo, J. D., Barrigón, M. L., Perona-Garcelán, S., Jimenez-Casado, C., David, A. S., Obiols-Llandrich, J. E. & Ruiz-Veguilla, M. Oct 2017 In : Psychiatry Research. 256, p. 13-20

Insight and suicidality in psychosis: A cross-sectional study

Massons, C., Lopez-Morinigo, J-D., Pousa, E., Ruiz, A., Ochoa, S., Usall, J., Nieto, L., Cobo, J., David, A. S. & Dutta, R. 1 Jun 2017 In : Psychiatry Research. 252, p. 147-153

McCutcheon, Robert Oliver, Dominic O'Neil, Aisling Petros, Natalia Pillinger, Toby Pollak, Thomas Sendt, Kyra-Verena Tracy, Derek Vieira, Sandra
2016
Antoniades, Mathilde Appiah-Kusi, Elizabeth Ashok, Abhishekh Beck, Katherine Bhavsar, Vishal Biaggi, Alessandra Colizzi, Marco Gifford, George

Using neuroimaging to help predict the onset of psychosis

Gifford, G.Crossley, N., Fusar-Poli, P., Schnack, H. G., Kahn, R. S., Koutsouleris, N., Cannon, T. D. & McGuire, P. 1 Apr 2016 In : NeuroImage.

Jauhar, Sameer Lopez-Morinigo, Javier McCutcheon, Robert

Treatment-Resistant Schizophrenia: Treatment Response and Resistance in Psychosis (TRRIP) Working Group Consensus Guidelines on Diagnosis and Terminology

Howes, O. D. , McCutcheon, R. , Agid, O. , de Bartolomeis, A. , van Beveren, N. J. M. , Birnbaum, M. L. , Bloomfield, M. A. P. , Bressan, R. A. , Buchanan, R. W. , Carpenter, W. T. , Castle, D. J. , Citrome, L. , Daskalakis, Z. J. , Davidson, M. , Drake, R. J. , Dursun, S. , Ebdrup, B. H. , Elkis, H. , Falkai, P. , Fleischacker, W. W. & 31 others 6 Dec 2016 In : The American Journal of Psychiatry. p. appiajp201616050503

The role of genes, stress and dopamine in the development of schizophrenia

Howes, O. D.Mccutcheon, R., Owen, M. J. & Murray, R. 6 Aug 2016 In : Biological Psychiatry.

Brain-imaging studies of treatment-resistant schizophrenia: a systematic review

Mouchlianitis, E.McCutcheon, R. & Howes, O. D. May 2016 In : The Lancet Psychiatry. 3, 5, p. 451–463

Meyer, Nicholas O'Neil, Aisling Petros, Natalia Pillinger, Toby

Community Treatment Orders—A pause for thought

Kaur, M., Pillinger, T., Prata-Ribeiro, H., Khazaal, Y. & Molodynski, A. Dec 2016 In : Asian journal of psychiatry. 24, p. 1-4

Tracy, Derek

Stimulating cognition in schizophrenia: A controlled pilot study of the effects of prefrontal transcranial direct current stimulation upon memory and learning

Nalesnik, N., Tracy, D. K., Joyce, D.Patel, S., Rodzinka-Pasko, J., Dolan, H., Hodsoll, J.Collier, T., Rothwell, J. & Shergill, S. S. 28 Dec 2016 In : Brain Stimulation.

Post graduate clinical placements: evaluating benefits and challenges with a mixed methods cross sectional design

Yiend, J., Tracy, D. K., Sreenan, B.Cardi, V., Foulkes, T., Koutsantoni, K., Kravariti, E.Tchanturia, K., Willmott, L., Shergill, S. & Reedy, G. 16 Feb 2016 In : Bmc Medical Education. 16, , 64

The glutamate mGluR5 receptor as a pharmacological target to enhance cognitive function: emerging evidence from psychosis models

Tracy, D. K., Smallcombe, N., Tiwana, F., Fosbraey, J., Sendt, K-V. & Shergill, S. 2016 Melatonin, neuroprotective agents and antidepressant therapy.. López-Muñoz, F., Srinivasan, V., De Berardis, D., Álamo, C. & Kato, T. A. (eds.). Berlin: Springer

Vanes, Lucy
2015
Azis, Matilda Beck, Katherine Bhavsar, Vishal Biaggi, Alessandra Borgan, Faith Colizzi, Marco

Interaction between DRD2 and AKT1 genetic variations on risk of psychosis in cannabis users: a case–control study

Colizzi, M.Iyegbe, C., Powell, J., Blasi, G., Bertolino, A., Murray, R. M. & Di Forti, M. 1 Jul 2015 In : NPJ SCHIZOPHRENIA. 1, 15025

Concomitant psychiatric problems and hormonal treatment induced metabolic syndrome in gender dysphoria individuals: a 2 year follow-up study

Colizzi, M., Costa, R., Scaramuzzi, F., Palumbo, C., Tyropani, M., Pace, V., Quagliarella, L., Brescia, F., Natilla, L. C., Loverro, G. & Todarello, O. Apr 2015 In : Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 78, 4, p. 399-406

Interaction Between Functional Genetic Variation of DRD2 and Cannabis Use on Risk of Psychosis

Colizzi, M.Iyegbe, C., Powell, J., Ursini, G., Porcelli, A., Bonvino, A., Taurisano, P., Romano, R., Masellis, R., Blasi, G., Morgan, C.Aitchison, K.Mondelli, V.Luzi, S.Kolliakou, A.David, A.Murray, R. M., Bertolino, A. & Forti, M. D. 31 Mar 2015 In : Schizophrenia Bulletin. 41, 5, p. 1171-1182

Dissociative symptoms in individuals with gender dysphoria: is the elevated prevalence real?

Colizzi, M., Costa, R. & Todarello, O. 30 Mar 2015 In : Psychiatry Research. 226, 1, p. 173-80

Functional genetic variation of the cannabinoid receptor 1 and cannabis use interact on prefrontal connectivity and related working memory behavior

Colizzi, M., Fazio, L., Ferranti, L., Porcelli, A., Masellis, R., Marvulli, D., Bonvino, A., Ursini, G., Blasi, G. & Bertolino, A. Feb 2015 In : Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. 40, 3, p. 640-9

Fonville, Leon Jauhar, Sameer Lopez-Morinigo, Javier

Systematic review of suicide in economic recession

Oyesanya, M., Lopez-Morinigo, J. & Dutta, R. 22 Jun 2015 In : World Psychiatry. 5, 2, p. 243-254

McCutcheon, Robert Meyer, Nicholas Papanastasiou, Evangelos Pollak, Thomas Sami, Musa Sendt, Kyra-Verena Tracy, Derek Vanes, Lucy

 

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