Affective (mood) disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, are very common psychiatric disorders. They have a chronic and recurrent course and are very distressing for sufferers and their families. Patients with affective disorders have not only a reduced quality of life but also a reduced life span and a significant number of patients commit suicide. Thus mood disorders have a high social and economic cost.
The aetiology of affective disorders is complicated with many ‘risk factors’. We know that there is some genetic component but other risk factors include, stress, medical conditions, changes in hormone levels, drug use and probably many more. Although we have some effective drug treatments for mood disorders, patients take a long time to respond to the drugs and even then may not recover completely; other patients find no benefit at all or find that the side effects of the antidepressants are too unpleasant to carry on with the treatment. In order to better treat, cure, or event prevent affective disorders, we need to understand more about how brain function is altered by both the risk factors for affective disorders and the effective treatments. With this knowledge, I hope that we may be able to vastly improve the treatment of these common and distressing disorders
My research is aimed at understanding the neurobiology which underlies the aetiology and treatment of affective (mood) disorders. My work has particularly focussed on i) gaining a clearer understanding of the anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology of brain monoamine neurotransmitters; ii) determining how these neurotransmitter systems are affected by stress and other risk factors for affective disorders; and iii) how these neurotransmitter systems are affected by established and novel antidepressant and mood stabilizing treatments.
In my laboratories I employ a wide range of techniques to examine the anatomy, biochemistry and function of brain monoamine systems in rodents. I use in vivo electrophysiology, microdialysis and imaging (PET scanning), in vitro extracellular electrophysiology, behavioural analysis, immunocytochemistry, high performance liquid chromatography, radio-immuno assay, in situ hybridization histochemistry and Western blotting.
I teach on the Pharmacology and Speech and Language BSc degree programmes as well as the MBBS course.
I supervise undergraduate project students and postgraduate (MRes and PhD) research students
I teach on the MRes Neuroscience course. I also teach postgraduate psychiatrists preparing for the Royal College of Psychiatrists membership examinations.