Understanding causes, improving treatments


Schizophrenia is a mental illness that emerges in adolescence or young adulthood and affects approximately 1 in 100 people in Australia and worldwide. It causes difficulties in thinking and unusual experiences such as hearing unpleasant voices or having false and sometimes bizarre beliefs. People with schizophrenia often avoid family and friends, lack motivation and are often unable to work.

While the exact causes are not known, we believe that genetic and environmental influences combine to create abnormal changes in brain development that cause the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Current treatments are designed to suppress these symptoms and do not target the cause of the disorder. These drugs only partially relieve symptoms and can produce unwanted side effects.

We are currently investigating several new treatments, including the use of an immune treatment, with the aim of improving symptoms and cognitive functioning.


Identification and characterisation of ST8SIA2: a generalised mental illness susceptibility gene

Together with Professor Peter Schofield (NeuRA) and Professor Philip Mitchell (Black Dog Institute), our group is investigating the genetic contributors to bipolar disorder using Australian families with multiple individuals who have been diagnosed with the disorder.

The group previously identified a bipolar susceptibility locus located on chromosome 15 in a pooled analysis of 35 families. More detailed analysis of this region has identified a single gene, which confers an increased susceptibility to both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and has also been implicated as a risk factor for autism.

The group is now aiming to understand how alterations in ST8SIA2 translate into an increased genetic susceptibility by characterising alterations in the DNA, RNA and protein product of this gene and its interaction partners in patients with either bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Neuregulin Dependent Neuronal Migration and Schizophrenia

The path to developing therapies to prevent schizophrenia involves research on how risk genes influence brain development and structure.

Enhancing Neurogenesis in Adult Primate Brain

Since brain disease often involves neuronal death, research into strategies to restore neuronal numbers could lead to improved function and recovery in patients.

CATS Study

Canakinumab adjunctive treatment to reduce symptoms and improve cognition in people with schizophrenia displaying elevated blood inflammatory markers

NeuroSleep: A NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence

This project aims to understand the bidirectional relationship between sleep and the brain to test and develop new approaches to treatment for sleep disruption across a range of medical disorders.  

Schizotypal personality traits and striatal function

This study tests the relationship among probabilistic association learning , schizotypal personality traits, striatal function and genes important to striatal function.

Canakinumab Add-on Treatment for Schizophrenia (CATS) Study

You are invited to participate in a research study using a human immune cell-line antibody to improve language, memory, and reduce symptoms of schizophrenia.

tDCS treatment for auditory hallucinations and thinking problems in schizophrenia

We are recruiting people with schizophrenia to take part in a study of the effects of transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) upon thinking problems and some of the symptoms that occur with schizophrenia.

What else is happening in Schizophrenia research at NeuRA?