This year’s annual Paykel Lecture was given by Professor Belinda Lennox from the University of Oxford on “Brains on Fire- is some mental illness caused by immune dysfunction?”
Professor Belinda Lennox
Belinda’s research is on discovering the causes of psychotic illness and improving its treatment.
Psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are serious mental illnesses of unknown causes. There is an urgent need to discover the basis of these illnesses and to develop new treatments.
Belinda and her research group undertake a wide range of research, all aiming to improve outcomes for people with first-episode psychosis. They are undertaking studies of the alteration of the microbiome in psychosis and whether treatment with probiotics is helpful. They are also undertaking studies of devices to improve the monitoring of physical health outcomes, and they are undertaking health services research studies of new service models in the care of people with early psychosis.
A particular focus is on the possible neuroimmunological basis of psychotic disorders. They have described the prevalence of antibodies against the NMDA receptor and other neuronal targets in people with the first episode of psychosis. They are running a clinical trial to see whether immunotherapy is an effective treatment approach for people with psychosis and these antibodies, as well as studies to examine immune system functioning in psychosis and the mechanism of action of these antibodies.
Their research is possible because we work closely with and within the Early Intervention in Psychosis service for Oxford Health NHS FT. This busy clinical service provides early, assertive community treatment for all people experiencing a first episode of psychosis across Oxfordshire.
They also lead the implementation of NICE quality standards for early psychosis for NHS England across the South of England (www.time4recovery.com)
They collaborate with academic groups and clinicians from across the UK and internationally to advance our understanding of these disorders and to treat patients with the best evidence-based treatments.