Schofield Group banner

Schofield Group - Professor Peter R Schofield

The Schofield Group is interested in the genetics of mental illness and brain function. In particular, we have focused on investigating the genetic causes of bipolar disorder, a debilitating and severe psychiatric illness which affects around 1% of the Australian population. Bipolar disorder is characterised by mood swings from the extremes of elevated moods (mania) and low moods (depression), and patients often experience normal moods (euthymia) between these episodes.

We have been studying families with multiple individuals who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder to examine the transmission of DNA to affected individuals, in order to identify bipolar disorder susceptibility genes. Because of the nature of the disorder and the complex pattern of genetic transmission, we expect that multiple genes will contribute to susceptibility, and that no single gene will have a large effect on the development of the disorder. It is possible that particular combinations of genes will be stronger risk factors for developing bipolar disorder than individual genes, so we are also looking at interactions between regions of the genome to identify genes which may, in concert, affect susceptibility to this severe psychiatric illness.

Click here to access Prof Peter Schofield's research papers:

Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, NeuRA
Professor, School of Medicine, UNSW
T: +612 9399 1604

Appointed Institute head in 2004, Peter graduated from the University of Sydney with the University Medal and was awarded a PhD in genetics from The Australian National University in 1985. He undertook postdoctoral positions in biotechnology in the US and the University of Heidelberg. Peter was appointed a NHMRC Senior Research Fellow at the Garvan Institute in 1993, becoming head of the Neurobiology Research Program in 1999. His research interests focus on identifying genes that lead to mental illness and to dementia.

Prizes and Awards:

  • 1982 - The University Medal, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Sydney
  • 1990 - A.W. Campbell Award, Australian Neuroscience Society
  • 1991 - Elsie Waltham Thompson Award, National Heart Foundation
  • 1995 - Boehringer-Mannheim Medal, Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Inc.
  • 1997 - Gottschalk Medal, Australian Academy of Science
  • 2006 - Research Australia Medical Media Award


  • 1985-1987 - Genentech Inc, South San Francisco, California, USA
  • 1987-1998 - ZMBH (Centre for Molecular Biology), University of Heidelberg
  • 1988-1991 - Pacific Biotechnology Limited, Rushcutters Bay, Sydney
  • 1991-2004 - Garvan Institute of Medical Research (NHMRC Senior, Principal and Senior Principal Research Fellow)
  • 1998-2004 - Founder and Managing Director, PsyGene Pty Ltd
  • 1999-2004 - Director, Neurobiology Research Program, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
  • 1996-2000 - Associate Prof, School of Medicine and Department of Biotechnology, University of New South Wales
  • 2000-present - Prof, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales
  • 2004-present - Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, NeuRA

Animal models of mental illness

While animals do not suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, animal studies undertaken by Dr Albert Chetcuti and PhD student Carlotta Duncan have investigated how the administration of antimani

Genes, environment and depression

In a collaborative study with Professors Kay Wilhelm and Phil Mitchell from the UNSW School of Psychiatry, Professor Peter Schofield and his team examined the genetic variation in the transporter prot

Genes, ethics and mental illness

Work on genes involved in predisposing an individual to mental illness has allowed Professor Schofield's research group to undertake a range of collaborative studies examining community and patient un

Genetics and neuroscience of resilience and wellbeing

Mental health and wellbeing is not simply the absence of mental illness, yet we know very little about its underlying mechanisms in relative comparison.

Genetics of bipolar disorder

Both genetic and environmental factors are involved in the development of bipolar disorder, a severe mood disorder characterised by oscillations from normal mood to periods of elevated mood (mania) or

Genetics of early onset Alzheimer's disease

Dementia is usually thought of as a disease of ageing.

Genetics of frontotemporal dementia

Dr John Kwok and Professor Peter Schofield have been studying familial dementias and, together with PhD student Agnes Luty, have characterised a large South Australian family that has frontotemporal d

Genetics of normal brain function

In a collaborative study with Professor Lea Williams from the University of Sydney at Westmead Hospital (now Stanford University) and Assoc Professor Evian Gordon from Brain Resource, Dr Carol Dobson-

Heritability of emotion and cognition in twins

In a collaborative ARC-Linkage study with Prof Leanne Williams (Stanford University, previously Brain Dynamics Centre, University of Sydney), A/Prof Anthony Harris (University of Sydney), Prof Richard

Quantitative trait analysis of bipolar disorder

Genetic research into bipolar disorder traditionally uses strict categorical criteria to define a clinical diagnosis.

Research team 
Prof Peter Schofield's picture
Professor Peter R Schofield
Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, NeuRA
Professor, School of Medicine, UNSW
T: +612 9399 1604
Dr Bill Brooks's picture
Dr Bill Brooks
Senior Research Officer
Conjoint Senior Lecturer, Prince of Wales Clinical School, UNSW
T: +612 9399 1101
Dr Justine M Gatt's picture
Dr Justine M Gatt
NHMRC CDF (Level 1) Research Fellow
Conjoint Senior Research Officer, NeuRA
T: +612 9399 1812
Ms Kerrie Pierce's picture
Kerrie Pierce
Senior Research Assistant (P/T)
T: +612 9399 1112
Ms Anna Heath's picture
Anna Heath
Research Assistant
T: +612 9399 1112
Mirelle D'Mello's picture