Research

The Department of Psychiatry is part of the School of Clinical Medicine in the University of Cambridge. It is recognised as an internationally leading centre of research in several aspects of psychiatry.

In the most recent UK Government Research Assessment Exercise (2008) we achieved the highest quality ratings for the strength-in-depth of our research over the period since the previous RAE in 2001, where we were rated as 5*. See the results here. In 2010 the Times Higher Education Supplement ranked Cambridge first in European Psychiatry and Psychology over the decade.

Strategy

The overall research objective of the Department 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 aim to bring together several key research disciplines to achieve this strategy including cognitive neuropsychology and neuroscience, neuroimaging and brain mapping, developmentally-orientated epidemiology, and molecular genetics and neuropathology.

Day-to-day research activity is led by our principal investigators, who often work in one or more of our major research groups. The Department is highly inter-disciplinary in its research activity, both across our own research groups, and through interaction and collaboration with a number of other University Departments, inter-departmental collaborative initiatives and networks (such as the Mental Health Research Network (MHRN), CLAHRC or Biomedical Research Centre), other external academic instutions, clinical services, service users and carers and many other key stakeholders.

Below we describe some key research themes of interest to the Department. You can find more detailed information about current and previous research within the Department by visiting our research groups or browsing our publications.

Key research themes

Cognitive neuropsychology & neuropsychiatry
Depression, mania & related affective disorders
Old Age Psychiatry
Schizophrenia & psychosis
Social psychiatry & psychiatric epidemiology
Developmental neuropsychiatry
Intellectual and developmental disabilities
Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivitity disorder
Normal ageing, Alzheimer’s disease & other neurodegenerative disorders
Mental health services research
Drug addiction research
Research collaborations

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, memory disorders, sleep disorders and seizure disorders, using psychopharmacological approaches, functional brain imaging with PET and functional MRI and genetic subtyping (Prof BJ Sahakian, Prof ET Bullmore, Dr PC Fletcher, Dr John Suckling, Dr H Ring, Dr U Muller). See the Brain Mapping Unit section for more details.

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Depression, mania and related affective disorders
Cognitive, neuroendocrine, neuroimaging and genetic studies. Psychosocial and epidemiological aspects, clinical anti-depressant studies (Prof PB Jones, Prof IM Goodyer, Prof BJ Sahakian, Dr Paul Wilkinson).

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Old Age Psychiatry

Professor John O’Brien leads research into old age psychiatry

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Schizophrenia and psychosis

Studies into causation including factors operating in early life, epidemiology, neuroimaging, neuropsychology and treatment (Prof PB Jones, Prof ET Bullmore, Dr G Murray, Dr JB Kirkbride). This work takes place across several of our research groups.

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Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology
Analysis of national and international longitudinal studies to establish risk and protective factors. Psychometric evaluation of assessment instruments and application of repeat-measures analysis (Prof PB Jones, Dr James Kirkbride, Dr Jan Stochl, Dr Kate Xu, Dr Emilio Fernandez, Dr Golam Khandaker, Antonio Errazuriz). See our EpiCentre group for more details.

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Developmental neuropsychiatry
Studies of childhood depression, autism and language disorders using neuroendocrine, neuroimaging, epidemiological and genetic approaches. The Department houses the Autism Research Centre (Prof S Baron-Cohen, Prof IM Goodyer, Dr H Ring) and the Child and Adolescent Psychiary Unit.

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Intellectual and developmental disabilities
Interdisciplinary research including the biological, behavioural and social sciences and academic legal studies covering the following main themes:

  • developmental outcomes of people with specific syndromes associated with learning disabilities including Prader-Willi Syndrome and Down’s Syndrome;
  • clinical, ethical and legal issues relevant to health and social care practice in the field of learning disability;
  • people with learning and other developmental disabilities (such as autistic spectrum disorders), in the criminal justice, mental health, and other systems;
  • citizenship and advocacy
  • the neuropsychiatry of autistic spectrum disorder; and
  • the presentation and treatment of epilepsy in people with learning disability.

The Cambridge Intellectual & Development Disabilities Research Group [CIDDRG] 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. (Prof AJ Holland, Dr H Ring, Dr M Redley, Dr ICH Clare)

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Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Neuropsychological and drug treatment studies of adults attending the ADHD Clinic (Dr U Muller, Prof BJ Sahakian). See the Sahakian group and Brain Mapping Unit research group page for more details.

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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 BJ Sahakian, Dr PC Fletcher, Prof ET Bullmore, Prof AJ Holland, Prof John O’Brien).

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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 (Prof PB Jones, Prof IM Goodyer, Dr James Kirkbride).

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Drug addiction research
Conducting research investigating the effect of chronic drug use on brain function and the question of how occasional drug use turns into addiction in some people. See the Drug Addiction Research group for more details.

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Research collaborations
Extensive interactions and ongoing collaborative projects with other University Departments, including Experimental Psychology, Public Health and Primary Care, Medical Genetics, Clinical Neuroscience (which includes the Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair and the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre), the Psychometrics Centre, Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International Studies, 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 and the MRC Biostatistics Unit. We have many national, international and industrial collaborations. Many projects within the Department are also supported by the Mental Health Research Network.

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