Investigation of systemic inflammation on symptoms, functional outcome and course of illness in psychotic disorders

Research Opportunity
PhD students, Masters by Research, Honours students
Department
Psychiatry
Location
Royal Melbourne Hospital
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Vanessa Cropley vcropley@unimelb.edu.au +61 3 8344 1876 Personal web page
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Maria Di Biase maria.dibiase@unimelb.edu.au

Summary Dysregulation of peripheral inflammation is a feature of psychosis. This project will examine the influence of a range of inflammatory molecules on specific types of symptoms, psychosocial function and measures of illness course in people with psychotic disorder.

Project Details

Dysregulation of peripheral inflammatory markers characterising low-grade systemic inflammation is proposed as a feature of psychotic disorders. However, the presence, extent and nature of inflammatory dysregulation in people with psychosis is highly variable, partly owing to the clinical heterogeneity of the disorder and the likelihood that only a proportion of individuals show alterations in inflammatory molecules.

Further complicating the role of inflammation in psychosis is its transdiagnostic association with a number of psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. This raises the possibility that inflammatory or immune markers have effects on specific symptoms, clinical features or lifestyle factors that are shared between disorders. For example, the presence of depression or affective symptoms has been proposed as a potential contributor to the immunological alterations seen in psychotic disorders. Other studies have reported an influence of inflammation on specific negative symptoms such as anhedonia, as well as an association with persistent negative symptoms. These studies suggest that there may be an inflammatory pathway for a subset of people with psychosis based on the expression of specific constellation of symptoms or prognostic features of the disorder. Nevertheless, existing studies investigating the association of inflammatory markers with specific types of symptoms is mixed. There also remains a scarcity of research examining the influence of inflammation on subtypes of psychotic disorder, psychosocial functioning, and measures of illness course.

The current project will leverage data from the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank (ASRB); a large Australian register and storage facility of medical research data that links clinical and neuropsychological information, blood samples and MRI scans from people with schizophrenia and healthy non-psychiatric controls. Blood samples from this database have been measured for a range of pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Using a data-driven, multivariate approach, the current project will seek to characterize and identify associations of inflammatory markers with specific constellation of symptoms, or symptom dimensions, as well as diagnostic subtypes and other clinical features. Linking inflammation with specific features of psychopathology will provide a more comprehensive understanding of inflammation that cuts across traditional psychiatric categories.  

The student will be responsible for the development of the proposal and refinement of study hypotheses, conducting a literature review, and performing statistical analyses. Coding experience would be advantageous. Publication of results is expected at the end of the project.



Faculty Research Themes

Neuroscience

School Research Themes

Neuroscience & Psychiatry



Research Opportunities

PhD students, Masters by Research, Honours students
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

Psychiatry

Research Node

Royal Melbourne Hospital

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