Mental illness is responsible for one of the largest disease burdens in Australia. The major psychiatric disorders schizophrenia and bipolar disorder each affect around 1% of the population and Neuroscience Research Australia has active programs in these areas, as well as childhood developmental disorders such as autism.
My research is broadly focused on determining modifiable risk factors for the development of psychosis and mood disorders, using a combination of techniques from cognitive psychology, neuroscience, genetics, and more recently epidemiology.
The Karl Group is interested in understanding mental and neurodegenerative disorders such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Justine brought this resilience research program to NeuRA in 2014 with a joint position within Psychology at the University of New South Wales. She also maintains an Honorary Senior Research Fellow position within Psychiatry at the University of Sydney.
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.
Our Psychiatric Genetics group is interested in identifying and characterising genes which increase risk to mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a debilitating disease characterised by cognitive impairment due to both general and regionally specific brain dysfunction, which has genetic contributions. The Cognitive Neuronal Systems Unit of the Schizophrenia Research Laboratory uses functional brain imaging (fMRI), cognitive testing, and genetic analyses to define the relationships among thinking deficits, genetic influences, and brain dysfunction in people with schizophrenia. We also use findings from the Schizophrenia Molecular Neurobiology Lab to guide our research using brain stimulation techniques and the novel application of existing medications as add-on therapy to antipsychotics to improve thinking ability and reduce symptoms in people with schizophrenia.
Most individuals with psychiatric disorders experience the onset of symptoms during childhood and adolescence, raising the importance of early identification to prevent or minimise long term adverse effects. However, neurodevelopmental syndromes such as Autism and schizophrenia likely arise from a variety of different mechanisms, which may best respond to different treatments. Our goal is to understand how the processes of normal development such as the onset of puberty interact with other factors to increase the risk of developing psychiatric disorders, and to use this understanding for optimising interventions.
The Schizophrenia Research Laboratory (jointly supported by Neuroscience Research Australia and the University of New South Wales) endeavours to delineate the basis of schizophrenia, a devastating mental illness which first manifests during adolescence, by bridging the molecular neurodevelopmental and cognitive neuronal systems approaches.