Psychiatry

The Discipline of Psychiatry provides a comprehensive teaching program, undertakes internationally recognised research, and offers innovative and effective clinical treatments.

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Psychiatry is concerned with:

  • the aetiology and pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders
  • the investigation of how pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions impact on human behaviour and brain function
  • the exploration of the regenerational capacity of the human mind and brain in the clinical context.

The Adelaide Medical School’s Discipline of Psychiatry is committed to excellence in all areas of the field, including research, teaching, and innovation in clinical practice.

Extensive undergraduate and postgraduate teaching

The discipline teaches psychiatry as part of the Bachelor of Medicine and Doctor of Surgery program, and Biological Psychiatry as part of the Neuroscience major of multiple Faculty of Health and Medical Science degrees. Students can also take a stand-alone elective course on Biological Psychiatry. 

The discipline also offers PhD and honours projects for health and medical sciences candidates, in a variety of areas.
 

Core research programs

The Discipline of Psychiatry conducts high quality, interdisciplinary research programs in a number of areas.

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  • Stress, inflammation and psychopathology

    This unit investigates the molecular and cellular factors that mediate the impact of psychosocial stress on mental health. The research produced is world leading, and focusses on identifying the intricate multi-directional relationship between brain, endocrine and inflammatory systems, and the key biological pathways impacted by early life adverse events, and later, life-chronic stress. These studies improve understanding of the underlying developmental neurobiology of both psychopathology and general mental wellbeing.

    Key research topics/project areas include:

    • transcriptomic and proteomic signatures in symptom domains of psychiatric disorders; example cognition
    • genetic predisposition, stress susceptibility and epigenetics
    • murine models of peripheral and central inflammation in modulating behaviour
    • investigating neuro-regenerative immune mechanisms using non-pharmacological interventions, such as nutrition and exercise.

    Research team

    Dr Catherine Toben – Principal Co-Lead
    Dr Catharine Jawahar – Principal Co-Lead
    Victoria Arnet
    Emma Sampson
    Alexandra Fraser
    Sophie Carles

    Partnerships

    Dr Cameron Bracken – Head, Gene Regulation Networks Laboratory, Centre for Cancer Biology             
    Suzanne Edwards –Senior Statistician, Adelaide Health Technology Assessment
    Dr Tim Sargeant – Head, Lysosomal Health in Ageing, SAHMRI

  • Omics and biological phenotypes for stratification of mental illness

    Psychiatry is undergoing a paradigm shift from the concept of distinct diagnoses (e.g. schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder etc.) to a representation of mental disorder that crosses diagnostic boundaries. How this conceptual transition is supported by a shared neurobiology remains largely unknown. This unit uses state-of-the art technologies from the fields of genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics to develop new ways of classifying, diagnosing, and treating mental disorders.

    Key research topics/project areas include:

    • novel and more effective blood biomarkers research to biologically stratify psychiatric disorder, improve diagnosis, and assist in treatment selection and improve prognosis
    • an integrated multi-omics approach for stratification

    Research team

    A/Professor K. Oliver Schubert – Principal Lead
    A/Professor Scott Clark
    Dr Azmeraw Amare
    Dr Natalie Mills
    Dr Catherine Toben
    Dr Catharine Jawahar
    Dr Natalie Aboustate
    Emma Sampson

  • Predictive modelling and machine learning in mental illness

    Understanding and predicting longitudinal and population outcomes in mental health is critical to both personalising patient care and developing better mental health services. This unit's research utilises cutting edge longitudinal, probabilistic and machine learning techniques to combine clinical and biological data to predict meaningful outcomes for people with mental illness. The research spans developmental trajectories and lifestyle factors across the lifespan, as well as relationships to mental illness, the combination of clinical and multimodal –omic and imaging biomarkers for the stratification of treatment response, and the simulation of health care services to identify ways to deliver care more effectively.

    Key research topics/project areas include:

    • predicting the first psychotic episode
    • group-based trajectory modelling of longitudinal mental health and quality of life outcomes in population cohorts (youth, pregnancy)
    • novel Bayesian and Markov modelling of outcomes in mental illness.

    Research team

    A/Professor Scott ClarkPrincipal Lead
    A/Professor K. Oliver Schubert
    Micah Cearns
    Vivienne Esser

    Partnerships

    Prof Barnaby Nelson - Orygen, University of Melbourne
    Prof Bernhard Baune - University of Munster
    Dr Luke Grzeskowiak - Adelaide Medical School
    Prof Vicki Clifton - Mater Research Institute, UQMs
    Jana Bednarz - Senior Statistician, Adelaide Health Technology Assessment
    A/Prof Brita Pekarsky - Flinders University College of Medicine and Public Health
    Prof Mark Mackay - Uni SA, Health Services Management
    Dr Micah Cearns - Insight Timer

  • Biology of anxiety disorders

    Anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder are often chronic and disabling. Onset is usually in childhood or adolescent years, and is often associated with marked impairment in social and/or occupational functioning. This unit investigates the phenotypic and genetic relationship between inflammation/immune dysregulation and anxiety to inform new avenues for treatment.

    Research team

    Dr Natalie Mills - Principal Lead
    Professor Cherrie Galletly
    A/Professor Scott Clark
    Dr Catharine Jawahar
    Dr Catherine Toben
    A/Professor K. Oliver Schubert
    Professor James Scott (QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute)
    Chelsea Parsons
    Victoria Arnet

  • Cognitive genomics

    The vision of this unit is to enhance cognitive functioning in in healthy people as well as in people living with neuropsychiatric conditions. The unit studies genetic and epigenetic mechanisms underlying cognitive functioning in healthy people, as well as in people with depression, anxiety, psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, history of traumatic events, and substance abuse. The identification of genetic determinants of cognitive functioning is the first step to understanding complex molecular mechanisms underlying cognitive processes in health and disease. To uncover its functional consequences, this unit employs functional genomics and advanced bioinformatics capabilities, including prediction modelling and machine learning. The unit brings expertise from cognitive psychology, clinical psychiatry, molecular biology and bioinformatics to seek answers to the biological underpinnings of cognitive functioning in health and disease.

    Key research topics/project areas include:

    • the genomic determinants of cognitive flexibility and high performance cognition in psychosis.

    Research team

    Dr Liliana Ciobanu - Principal Lead

    Clinical psychiatry

    A/Professor Scott Clark
    A/Professor K. Oliver Schubert
    Dr Natalie Mills

    Cognitive psychology

    Prof Eugene Aidman
    Prof Lazar Stankov
    Dr Matthew Knight
    Dr Ellie Lawrence-Wood

    Molecular biology

    Dr Nigel Rogasch
    Dr Catharine Jawahar
    Dr Catherine Toben

    Bioinformatics

    Dr Jimmy Breen
    Dr Azmeraw Amare

    Partnerships

    Defence Science and Technology Group, DSTG
    South Australian Medical and Health Research Institute, SAHMRI
    University of Sydney
    University of Newcastle
    Australian Institute for Machine Leaning, AMIL

  • Traumatic stress studies

    This unit has a long track record in studies of a range of populations subject to traumatic events. Longitudinally studies have been conducted of the Australian Defence Force personal, transitioned military veterans, emergency service personnel and disaster victims. The unit aims to better characterise the contribution of traumatic events to the onset of the full range of psychiatric disorders, and particularly PTSD, across different age groups. The focus is to characterise modifiable psychosocial risk factors, as well as the underlying neurobiological cascades that underpin reactions to traumatic events. These understandings aim to inform improvements in systems of care and novel interventions, and improve current treatments.

    Key research topics/project areas include:

    • bio-psycho-social impacts of stress and trauma exposure
    • military, first responder, and high-risk occupation mental health
    • early identification and intervention for maintaining and optimising mental health and wellbeing.

    Research team `

    Dr Ellie Lawrence-Wood - Principle Lead
    Professor Alexander McFarlane AO
    Dr Miranda Van Hooff
    Ms Jenelle Baur
    Dr Kristin Graham
    Dr Paula Dabovich
    Mr Andrew Lawrence 
    Dr Catherine Toben

    Partnerships

    Phoenix Australia, the University of Melbourne
    Prof Richard Bryant AC, Department of Psychology, the University of New South Wales.
    Col Rakesh Jetly, Canadian Defence Force
    Prof Ruth Lanius, University of Western Ontario, Canada
    Prof Eric Vermetten, University of Leiden, the Netherlands

    • Psychosis studies

      This unit investigates the genetic, biological, social and clinical aspects of psychotic disorders. These disorders, including schizophrenia and severe mood disorder, impact all aspects of a person's physical and mental health, social functioning, and community engagement. The Psychosis Studies Research Group aims to undertake research that can make a difference to the lives of people living with psychosis.

      Key research topics/project areas include:

      • the associations between autoimmune profiles and clinical symptoms in psychotic disorders
      • comparing levels of health literacy between community mental health patients in Boston (USA) and Adelaide
      • investigating physical and mental health, and quality of life in older people with psychosis
      • characterising psychotic relapse and its impact on patients, their careers, and the health care system
      • evaluating long-term outcomes of anti-psychotic medication.

      Research team

      Professor Cherrie Galletly
      A/Professor K. Oliver Schubert
      A/Prof Dennis Liu
      A/Professor Scott Clark
      Dr Catherine Toben
      Dr Lisa Hahn
      Dr Hannah Myles
      Dr Sumana Thomson
      Dr Nelson Lam
      Dr Nicholas Myles, PhD student (with University of Queensland)
      Dr Natalie Aboustate
      Dr Elysia Sokolenko

      Partnerships

      Neuroscience Research Australia, NeuRA (University of NSW)
      St Vincent’s Mental Health Research Unit (University of Melbourne)
      MAGNET Clinical Trials Network (University of Melbourne)
      Institute of Urban Health Research, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA
      KTH Royal Institute Of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
      Psychiatry Department, The Third Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

    • Brain stimulation, imaging and cognition

      This unit investigates the neutral mechanisms which underlie cognitive function, how these mechanisms are altered in different brain disorders (schizophrenia, depression, autism, chronic pain), and whether we can modulate these mechanisms using non-invasive brain stimulation. The brain is a dynamic organ that continually recognises and adapts its structure and function. These rapid and long-term changes give rise to our thoughts, govern how we perceive our environment and allow us to either retain information in our mind for brief periods or to store information over many years. Even subtle disruptions in the mechanisms governing brain dynamics can have devastating effects on social and cognitive functioning and possibly underlie mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression. As such, understanding the functional importance of the mechanisms responsible for dynamic brain organisation is a key focus of neuroscience research.

      Key research topics/project areas include:

      • understanding the brain mechanisms responsible for short and long term memory
      • developing concurrent TMS-EEG methods to non-invasively study cortical network properties
      • investigating whether abnormal excitation/inhibition, connectivity and plasticity contribute to cognitive deficits in healthy aging, schizophrenia, depression, autism, and chronic pain
      • understanding how dynamic changes in brain organisation (e.g. oscillations, connectivity) give rise to improved or reduced behavioural performance (e.g. memory and learning)
      • developing new brain stimulation treatments for severe mental illness.

      Research team

      Dr Nigel Rogasch - Principal Lead
      Professor Cherrie Galletly - Co Lead
      Dr. Carolyn Berryman
      Lynton Graetz
      Sian Virtue-Griffiths (Monash)
      Ellen Williams
      Suraj Suresh
      Marissa Holden (PhD student Adelaide)

      Partnerships

      The Adelaide Clinic Neurostimulation Research Group, Ramsay HealthCare Lifespan Human Neurophysiology, University of Adelaide
      Neural Systems and Behaviour Lab, Monash University
      Epworth Centre for Innovation in Mental Health, Epworth Hospital and Monash University

    • Physical health and mental illness

      People with severe mental illness have morality rates substantially higher than the general population. This differential mortality gap is driven by an excess of potentially preventable physical health conditions and has worsened over time. These areas are investigated with the aim of developing therapies and informing policy and service provision for individuals.

      Key research topics/project areas include:

      • obstructive sleep apnoea in people with schizophrenia
      • smoking cessation in people with severe mental illness
      • metabolic syndrome
      • adverse effects of Clozapine
      • hypertension
      • Hepatitis C, Smile-C Clinical Trial of the impact of Hep C treatment on cognition
      • lung fibrosis

      Research team

      Dr Hannah Myles - Principal Lead
      Professor Cherrie Galletly
      A/Professor Scott Clark
      Dr Nick Myles
      A/Professor K. Oliver Schubert
      Dr Lisa Hahn
      Deb Sanford

      Partnerships

      Prof Mark Boyd, University of Adelaide
      Prof Dan Siskind, University of Queensland
      Dr Jackie Curtis, University of New South Wales

    • Child and youth clinical trials

      Early intervention to change the course of mental illness has emerged as key to reducing its impact. However, the evidence for the vast majority of effective treatments has been derived from adult samples. Current treatments are also not fully effective for many people and carry significant side effect burden. This unit brings together a team of experienced clinician scientists and the wide expertise of the Australian Child and Youth Mental Health Clinical Trials Network to explore novel treatments for early onset illness in high quality, multisite national and international clinical trials.

      Research team

      A/Professor Scott Clark - Principal Lead
      A/Professor K. Oliver Schubert
      Dr Natalie Mills

      Partnerships

      Prof Paul Amminger, Orygen, University of Melbourne
      Prof Stephen Wood, Orygen, University of Melbourne
      Prof Pat McGorry, Orygen, University of Melbourne
      Prof Peter Enticott, Deakin University
      Australian Child and Youth Mental Health Clinical Trials Network

    • Adult clinical trials

      This unit focuses on pharmacological and psychological intervention in chronic psychosis, treatment resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse problems. Research includes collaboration with national and international researchers and industries. 

      Research team

      A/Professor Dennis Liu – Lead
      Professor Cherrie Galletly
      Dr Anna Nowack
      Bev Hisee

    • Youth and adult mental health services

      This unit promotes and inspires state-of-the-art youth and adult mental health services delivery through data analysis and research that informs health policy makers, health service managers, clinicians, and educators. 

      Key research topics/ project areas

      Research team

      A/Professor K. Oliver Schubert - Principal lead
      A/Professor Scott Clark
      Professor Cherrie Galletly
      A/Prof Dennis Liu
      Dr Hannah Myles

      Partnerships

      SA Health, Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN), Northern Adelaide Local Health Network (NALHN)
      Adelaide Primary Health Network (Adelaide PHN)
      Sonder
      Flinders Digital Health Research Centre

    How to get started in research

    If you want to challenge yourself and potentially pursue a career in research but aren't sure where to start, consider applying for an honours degree with the Discipline of Psychiatry. 

    The honours program enables you to research an area of personal interest and develop the skills required for postgraduate study at a higher level. You'll undertake a research project and complete coursework to gain fundamental research skills. Find out more about applying for honours within the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.

    Participate in clinical trials and the Adelaide Mental Health Biobank (AMHB)

    The Discipline of Psychiatry often seeks participants for clinical trials. Find out more about how you can participate in research through current and upcoming trials.

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    • Contact us

      Key contacts

      Academic staff

      Research staff

      • Dr Azmeraw Amare - gENomics of mentAl wellBeing and heaLthy ageING — ENABLING research group lead
      • Dr Liliana Ciobanu - Cognitive Genomics Research Group Lead
      • Dr Ellie Lawrence-Wood - Traumatic Stress Studies Research Group Lead
      • Dr Kristin Graham
      • Dr Elysia Sokolenko
      • Dr Natalie Aboustate
      • Victoria Arnet

      HDR students

      • Micah Cearns
      • Andrew Olagunju
      • Emma Sampson
      • Deborah Sandford
      • Kai Tit Tan

      Affiliate staff

      • Professor Alexander McFarlane
      • Professor Bernhard Baune (University of Munster)
      • A/Professor Oliver Schubert
      • Dr Celia Fourier (SAHMRI)
      • Dr Matthew Knight (Lockheed Martin Australia)
      • Dr Julie Morgan
      • Dr Gaurav Singhal