Imaging genetics in psychiatry

Research Opportunity
PhD students, Masters by Research, Post Doctor Researchers
Department / Centre
Royal Melbourne Hospital
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Maria Di Biase +61390353404 Personal web page
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Associate Professor Andrew Zalesky +61390357747 Personal web page

Summary Conduct research at the interface of genetics, neuroscience and psychiatry using cutting-edge computational methods and neuroimaging techniques

Project Details

There is currently no known cure or cause for several serious psychiatric disorders that disrupt functioning of the human mind. Our group have used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to reveal subtle alterations in brain structure and function in people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression. Until recently, scientists didn’t know much about what causes these brain alterations, which is difficult to learn with MRI techniques alone. As technology rapidly evolves, new methods are emerging to evaluate the impact of genetic factors on brain structure and function. With these methods, recent studies demonstrate crucial interactions between genetics and brain health (see figure for example) and suggest that genetic factors contribute to macroscopic brain alterations in people with psychiatric illness. Despite this progress, several open challenges remain, which must be overcome to understand gene-brain relationships in psychiatric disorders and to translate these findings into clinically meaningful and actional outcomes in psychiatry.

Check out our lab website for further details:

Further research and key questions
  • Develop and improve methods to understand gene-brain relationships in psychiatric disorders.
  • Identify links between specific genetic signals with specific brain alterations.
  • Understand the functional impact of genetic variation on brain structure by mapping gene expression brain atlases to neuroimaging data.
  • Explore the respective contributions of genetic predisposition and environmental exposure to the development of psychiatric disorders.
  • Can genetic-imaging associations improve prediction of psychopathology, illness progression and treatment outcomes?
Further reading
  • Elliott, L.T., Sharp, K., Alfaro-Almagro, F., Shi, S., Miller, K.L., Douaud, G., Marchini, J. and Smith, S.M. Genome-wide association studies of brain imaging phenotypes in UK Biobank. Nature 562, 210–216 (2018).
  • Lv, J., Di Biase, M.A., Cash, R.F., Cocchi, L., Cropley, V., Klauser, P., Tian, Y., Bayer, J., Schmaal, L., Cetin-Karayumak, S. and Rathi, Y. Individual deviations from normative models of brain structure in a large cross-sectional schizophrenia cohort. Mol Psychiatry (2020).
  • Arnatkeviciute, A., Fulcher, B., and Fornito, A. A practical guide to linking brain-wide gene expression and neuroimaging data. Neuroimage 189, 353-367 (2019).
  • Bogdan, R., Salmeron, B.J., Carey, C.E., Agrawal, A., Calhoun, V.D., Garavan, H., Hariri, A.R., Heinz, A., Hill, M.N., Holmes, A. and Kalin, N.H. Imaging genetics and genomics in psychiatry: a critical review of progress and potential. Biological psychiatry 82.3, 165-175 (2017).

Faculty Research Themes

School Research Themes

Neuroscience & Psychiatry

Research Opportunities

PhD students, Masters by Research, Post Doctor Researchers
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

Department / Centre


Research Node

Royal Melbourne Hospital

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