Mental health

Mental health disorders, like depression, addiction and psychosis (when you ‘lose touch’ with reality and may experience hallucinations and delusions) are common and potentially severe. But we don’t yet fully understand how they are related to changes in the brain and body.

This makes it difficult to develop effective new medicines and treatments for patients.

This theme focuses on these links between mind, brain and body, using the latest brain imaging technology including hi-tech scanners for our research. One example of our current research is mapping the normal and abnormal development of the brain during adolescence and early adult life – a time of life when mental health disorders are most likely to emerge.

Immunology is a relatively new area of interest for psychiatry (the study and treatment of mental illness) but there is growing evidence that some mental disorders (including depression and psychosis) may be caused by something going wrong in the body’s immune system.

Based on this we are stratifying (arranging into groups) some patients using biomarkers (molecules in the body that can act as a sign of disease). Working with pharmaceutical companies, we are looking at immunological drugs to see if they could be used to treat carefully-selected patients with mental health symptoms.

We are also developing IT systems that will allow us to access and analyse health records from different NHS trusts in Cambridgeshire. This data will be anonymized, so we cannot identify patients from the records, and will link our research to the ‘real life’ landscape of mental health disorders in the region.