My research interest is the neuropsychiatry of psychiatric disorders.
My first expertise and training was in the cytoarchitectural investigation of brain and the neuronal and glial cell populations within it, in schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder. I was awarded two MRC clinical training fellowships in the UK to undertake this work. My main early contribution in this field has been the observation that there is a cortical glial cell deficit in the brains of subjects with major depression and schizophrenia. I have also been among the first to describe cortical neuronal size reductions in major depression and bipolar disorder.
Subsequently, supported by funding from the Welcome Trust through a University Award (2002-2006) and the HRB, SFI and NARSAD, I have pursued a Neuroproteomics Research Programme involving subjects with major psychiatric disorders. In collaboration with internationally recognised experts in proteomic research (Professor Mike Dunn and Dr Gerard Cagney) I have employed a variety of protein separation methods and used gel-based and non-gel based proteomic methods and published studies showing synaptic and mitochondrial changes in the brains of subjects with major psychiatric disorders.
I am currently funded as an HRB Clinician Scientist and as part of this work with my group to identify predictive plasma protein biomarkers schizophrenia. Subsequent HRB funding has allowed me to address this same question using metabolomic and lipidomic approaches. Work submitted for publication has now identified age 11 biomarkers of psychotic disorders at age 18.
My current focus is now extending beyond schizophrenia to the study of young people at risk of all mental disorders. The aim is that by identifying those at risk of mental disorders before they become unwell that future psychiatric illness can be prevented.