Research Fellow, Group Leader – Laboratory of Immunopsychiatry, Neuroscience Research Australia
Senior Researcher, UNSW, School of Psychiatry
(02) 9399 1026
The Laboratory of ImmunoPsychiatry investigates the role of the immune system and inflammation in symptoms of psychiatric illness. We investigate the mechanisms responsible for inflammation-associated psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia, neurodevelopmental disorders such as Tourette’s Syndrome and Autism, and when symptoms of depression and cognitive impairment occur in patients with chronic inflammatory illness such as cancer (known as ‘chemobrain’). The Laboratory of ImmunoPsychiatry is dedicated to identifying potential cheap available drugs that can be repurposed to prevent and treat psychiatric illness and to identify new biological targets for novel drug design.
Dr Adam Walker completed his PhD at the University of Newcastle in 2011 and completed successful postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He returned to Australia in 2015 and joined Monash University as a National Breast Cancer Foundation research fellow, investigating the mechanisms underlying cognitive and psychiatric side-effects of cancer and its treatment. Now at NeuRA, Adam’s research focuses on mechanisms of inflammation-induced depression, schizophrenia and cancer-associated cognitive impairment. He has pioneered discovery of available drugs that may be repurposed to prevent treat inflammation-induced depression (ketamine, leucine) and cancer-associated cognitive impairment (aspirin).
The Laboratory of ImmunoPsychiatry is determining the role of resident immune cells (microglia) in the pathophysiology of inflammation-induced depression. Using animal models they are determining whether suppressing activation of these cells can prevent or treat depression-like behaviour. They are also determining whether enhancing transport of excess glutamate produced by these cells from the brain and across the blood-brain-barrier for metabolism in the body is an effective treatment for inflammation-induced depression.
Cognitive impairment is extremely common among cancer patients and survivors. The Laboratory of ImmunoPsychiatry has determined that the cancer itself contributes to this using animal models of breast cancer, which may be prevented by the use of anti-inflammatory drugs. We are now trying to determine the precise biological changes that occur in the brains of cancer patients that lead to long-term cognitive impairment and identify novel treatment strategies that can be tested in clinical populations from diagnosis through to the end of treatment.
The Laboratory of ImmunoPsychiatry collaborates closely with the Schizophrenia Research Laboratory at NeuRA. We are investigating the role of astrocytes in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and the intersection of antipsychotic treatments with neuroinflammation to improve treatments for schizophrenia.
Sleep and circadian rhythm disruption represent a major risk factor for cancer progression and its associated side-effects such as mood disorders and cognitive impairment. Using mouse models of sleep and circadian rhythm disruption of shift workers, we are identifying the impact of poor sleep and dysregulated body clocks on cancer and cancer-associated side-effects to improve the lives of cancer patients.
ADAM LAWTHER Postdoctoral Fellow, Laboratory of ImmunoPsychiatry : email@example.com