Multinuclear MRI biomarkers in schizophrenia

Research Opportunity
PhD students, Masters by Research, Honours students
Number of Honour Places Available
Number of Master Places Available
Department / Centre
Royal Melbourne Hospital
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Professor Christos Pantelis 0417592830 Personal web page
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Warda Syeda Personal web page
Associate Professor Mahesh Jayaram

Summary Schizophrenia is a debilitating neuropsychiatric disorder characterised by positive symptoms (delusions, hallucinations), negative symptoms (lack of motivation, poverty of speech), cognitive deficits and impaired social and occupational functioning. The aetiology of schizophrenia remains unknown and the mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of schizophrenia are poorly understood. Previous studies have identified altered brain metabolism as one of the putative mechanisms contributing to schizophrenia, partly due to neuroinflammation and pathological oxidative processes. However, there is a paucity of research investigating oxidative and neuroinflammatory processes in the brain in vivo. Sodium (23Na) MRI is an emerging metabolic imaging technique that employs ultra-high field MRI (7T and above) to characterise tissue sodium content, and together with iron (1H) MRI provides an invaluable tool to investigate brain structure and chemical composition in the living brain. By employing advanced multivariate statistical techniques, this program of work aims to combine complementary information from clinical, cognitive and biological data in order to identify unique patterns of cognition and structural changes associated with schizophrenia.

Project Details

The Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre (MNC) has a strong history of developing novel research protocols utilising cutting-edge methodologies in neuroimaging to investigate a range of mental health conditions, particularly psychosis and schizophrenia. Mapping regional brain iron content using 1H MRI signal together with brain structure and 23Na content, provides a unique opportunity to develop an integrated model of brain structure and chemical environment. In addition to furthering our knowledge about pathogenicity of schizophrenia, imaging biomarkers specific to the central nervous system are crucial to establishing the validity of clinically accessible peripheral biomarkers of schizophrenia. This program of work, currently being undertaken at the MNC, is the first MRI study to investigate associations between brain sodium content, oxidative stress, iron and structural aberrations in schizophrenia using multinuclear MRI.

This project involves a multi-disciplinary team of collaborators from across Melbourne, with additional links to national and international researchers. It would suit a student with an interest in learning both clinical assessment and research skills particularly focusing on neuroimaging techniques and methodology. There will be opportunities for the student to assist with data collection on a 7T MRI scanner with participants with mental health conditions, as well as healthy control participants.

The student will have the opportunity to develop a project focus aligned with their interests across one or more aspects of the study, including neuroimaging (including methods development), cognition, mental health symptomatology, and biochemistry.

The Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre (MNC) has an active and dedicated student base, with opportunities available for involvement in various activities outside of the study program. Further information about the MNC, research streams and student activities can be found here:

Faculty Research Themes


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 / Centre


Research Node

Royal Melbourne Hospital

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