Clinical Translational Neuroscience

This research program led by Professor Stephen Wood aims to improve our understanding of the biology of mental illness in young people.

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This research program led by Professor Stephen Wood aims to improve our understanding of the biology of mental illness in young people. This covers brain imaging (structure, function, and chemistry), cognitive ability (including memory and attention), and measures derived from blood samples (such as genetics or immune response). We also want to understand how these measures change over time, both as a result of normal development and of experiencing mental illness.

Understanding the contribution of neurobiology to the onset and persistence of mental disorders in young people will help develop new treatments, and target the ones we already have to those they are most likely to help.

Some of our current projects include:

  • Personalised Prognostic Tools for Early Psychosis Management (PRONIA)

This study aims to predict the outcome of early mental disorders, using machine learning approaches. We recruit at-risk individuals and those with recent onset depression or psychosis, who complete a comprehensive assessment battery at baseline and 9 months. (www.pronia.eu)

  • The BrIT study examines the trajectory of brain changes over the months after identification as at-risk for psychosis. Brain imaging is collected at baseline and up to 7 further times over the next 12 months.
  • Transitions

We investigate clinical and demographic predictors of outcome from presentation at headspace centres. Our initial study in Sydney & Melbourne is now complemented by neuroimaging data in Birmingham and Sydney.

  • The COAST study investigates the frequency and clinical implications of co-occurring autism traits and psychotic disorder.
  • CATS is a longitudinal study of healthy development over the peri-pubertal period.
  • ENACT is a randomised controlled trial looks at the effectiveness of N-acetylcysteine in first episode psychosis, and investigates the effects on cognitive function and exploration of mechanism with brain imaging.
  • ENIGMA Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

This study is a collaboration between over 30 research institutes from 15 different countries worldwide that share neuroimaging data from over 2,500 people with MDD and 8,000 healthy individuals. ENIGMA MDD aims to combine datasets in order to increase statistical power to further elucidate brain alterations associated with depression at different stages of life and different stages of disease (http://enigma.ini.usc.edu/ongoing/enigma-mdd-working-group/).

  • MQ Help Overcome and Prevent the Emergence of Suicide (HOPES)

Globally, suicide is the second most common cause of death for adolescents and young adults. To improve preventative intervention treatment for suicide thoughts and behaviours, it is critical to identify neurobiological mechanisms and psychosocial risk factors that confer increased risk. Our research includes a multidisciplinary international research consortium that aims to elucidate neurobiological mechanisms and behavioural phenotypes that underlie risk for suicide thoughts and behaviours during adolescence.

  • Profiling of youth affective disorders

The diagnosis of adolescent affective disorders currently relies on symptom-based classification schemes. Drawbacks of current symptom-based classifications are that they assume that mental disorders are discrete and dissociable entities, and that they are agnostic about underlying biological mechanisms. There is a clear need for developing an alternative neurobiologically informed diagnostic framework for adolescent depression and anxiety. Our research aims to establish the neurobiological correlates underlying variation in disease profile and disease course of affective disorders in young people.