Led by Professor John McGrath, the Epidemiology and Clinical Trials Group is looking to find better treatments for psychotic disorders.

Funded by the John Cade Fellowship, and in collaboration with Associate Professor James Scott, the Epidemiology and Clinical Trials Group and staff from the Queensland Brain Institute have linked up with clinicians around south-east Queensland. The Cadence clinical trials program has commenced randomized control trials of new candidate treatments for those with psychosis.

The group aims to explore risk factors linked to schizophrenia and other mental disorders. They focus on non-genetic factors that are potentially modifiable. In recent years the team has been examining the impact of low vitamin D (the “sunshine hormone”) during early brain development and on adult brain function. In collaboration with Professor Darryl Eyles and Associate Professor Thomas Burne, they have developed animal models to examine the impact of low vitamin D during gestation on brain development. The group has established a new research program with Professor Pankaj Sah and Dr Helen Gooch to explore links between vitamin D and voltage-gated calcium channels.

Previously in 2013, Professor McGrath was awarded a prestigious National Health and Medical Research Council John Cade Fellowship in Mental Health Research. These funds have allowed the group to explore a wider range of modifiable risk factors (e.g. infectious agents, stress, cannabis, vitamin D), a more diverse range of brain-related outcomes (e.g. prenatal and neonatal brain growth, childhood neurocognition, autism, schizophrenia, other mental disorders), and a wider range of epidemiological samples (in collaboration with national and international groups). New projects include an international study related to psychotic experiences in the general community (Harvard University and 19 other universities). The group has also been extending studies related to vitamin D in international datasets by exploring gene-environment interactions.

In 2016, Professor McGrath was awarded the prestigious Niels Bohr Professorship in Denmark to continue his ground-breaking research into schizophrenia.

Research Interests

The association between vitamin D status and brain outcomes

In collaboration with Professor Darryl Eyles, we are measuring early life vitamin D deficiency status and exploring if this changes the risk of later developing serious mental illness. These studies are in collaboration with colleagues in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands.

The demographic and clinical correlates of psychotic-like experiences

Using two large surveys conducted in Australia in 1997 and 2007, our group have undertaken a suite of students designed to understand the clinical relevance of isolated psychotic-like experiences. Over recent years we have published many papers on this topic, and have made important contributions with respect to how psychotic-like experiences are associated with (a) an increased risk of later psychotic disorder, (b) depression, anxiety and substance use disorders, (c) a family history of mental illness, (d) exposure to trauma, (e) an increased risk of suicidal ideation and behaviour, (f) general physical health, and (g) help-seeking.

The Survey of High Impact Psychosis (SHIP)

Our group was one of seven sites involved in the design and administration of the second Australian Survey of psychotic disorders. In collaboration with a large national team, we continue to explore key issues related to the needs of people with psychosis in Australia.

Clinical Trials

Professor John McGrath was awarded a John Cade Fellowship in Mental Health Research by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2013. The Fellowship will enable Professor McGrath and his team to build a clinical trials platform in South-East Queensland. These trials, collectively known as Cadence, will be broadly related to improving clinical outcomes for people with psychosis, particularly early psychosis.

Cadence BZ Trial

Can sodium benzoate, a commonly used food preservative, assist with recovery from psychosis?

Cadence M Trial

Can an extract from the tropical fruit mangosteen assist in the treatment of schizophrenia?

Cadence SCIT Trial

Can social cognition interaction training assist in the treatment of schizophrenia?

Group Members

Professor John McGrath

Dr Helen Gooch

Dr Sukanta Saha

Suzy Alexander

Dr Duncan McLean

Henry Simila

Andrea Baker

Carmen Lim

Pauline Ko

Recent Publications

Access the Epidemiology and Clinical Trials Group’s publications here.