Research Stream: Epidemiology and Clinical Trials
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 randomised 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.
What is psychiatric epidemiology?
Psychiatric epidemiology is the science of counting health-related measures in the community. It asks questions like:
- How many people have a particular mental disorder?
- Do mental disorders differ between men and women?
- When do different mental disorders emerge across the lifespan?
- What are the risk factors for mental disorders – for example, are there risk factors that we inherit from our parents (e.g. genetic factors) or risk factors that we face during life (e.g. trauma stress, low parental vitamin D)
- Do people with mental disorder have a normal life span, and if not, why do they have premature mortality?
- How disabling are mental disorders, and how can we best measure this burden?
With funding from the Danish National Research Foundation, we will measure neonatal vitamin D concentration in the iPSYCH2012 case-cohort sample. We are interested in the links between prenatal vitamin D deficiency and risk of later mental disorders.
In recent years the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation has established a network of collaborators around the world to measure the burden of disease around the world. In collaboration with Professor Harvey Whiteford and his team at QCMHR, we will explore new techniques to estimate the burden of mental disorders for countries. We will use high quality Danish health registers to estimate the burden of treated mental disorders in Denmark, and use individual-level data to explore ways to capture comorbidity within mental disorders.
Over the lifespan, the patterns of mental disorders change, and often people have several different mental disorders at the same time. Also, people with mental disorders have an increased risk of have a range of general medical conditions (e.g. diabestes, hypertension etc). This is called comorbidity. In order to understand the burden of mental disorders in the community, we need to estimate patterns of comorbidity (thus COMO for short). Genetic research has demonstrated that different types of mental disorder can share common risk variants. The NB-COMO theme will link all of the co-investigators named on the NBP. We aim to map patterns of COMO based on Danish registers, and samples from within the World Mental Health Survey, and other large datasets. We hope that this research will help clinicians and people with mental disorder better manage their health.
Visit the McGrath Group page on the University of Queensland's website.
Funded by the John Cade Fellowship, and in collaboration with Associate Professor James Scott (UQ Centre for Clinical Research), the McGrath group and staff from the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research have linked up with clinicians around south-east Queensland. The Cadence clinical trials program has commenced randomised control trials of new candidate treatments for those with psychosis.
Visit the Niels Bohr Professorship website.
Funded by the Danish National Research Foundation, research focusses on psychiatric epidemiology and aims to promote innovation. The Niels Bohr Professorship is based at AARHUS University, Denmark and in partnership with The University of Queensland and Harvard University.
Visit the National Centre for Register-based Research website.
AARHUS University page for the Niels Bohr Professorship.