Centre for In Vivo Imaging

Staff Profiles

Dr David Cousins

Director, Newcastle Magnetic Resonance Centre, Clinical Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist



I lead a research team dedicated to delineating and predicting the response to lithium in bipolar disorder. My clinical work is conducted at the Regional Affective Disorders Service, where I lead the inpatient facility. Within the Centre for In Vivo Imaging (CIVI), as Director of Newcastle Magnetic Resonance Centre, I provide clinical leadership for the conduct of MRI studies.


My personal research programme revolves around determining the effects of lithium on the brain with respect to its distribution, using advanced imaging techniques such as 7Li-MRI. We are exploring whether imaging techniques used in combination with in-depth clinical profiling may better identify of those most likely to benefit from this important medication.


BMedSci(Hons) MBBS MRCP FRCPsych PhD

Professional registration

GMC 4342395 – Specialist register since December 2011 (Adult Psychiatry)

Current appointment

2020 Director, Newcastle Magnetic Resonance Centre, Newcastle University

2018 Clinical Senior Lecturer Newcastle University

2012 Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist CNTW NHS Foundation Trust

Previous appointments

2014-2020 MRC Clinician Scientist Newcastle University

2011-2014 Clinical Research Fellow, Institute of Neuroscience Newcastle University

2009-2011 FSF Funded Clinical Research Associate Newcastle University

2006-2009 MRC Clinical Research Training Fellow Newcastle University

Additional roles and responsibilities

Executive Committee member, EU H2020 funded R-LiNK initiative study

Work Package leader (7Li-MRI), EU H2020 funded R-LiNK initiative study

Principal Investigator CRiB2 study (Newcastle site)

Co-investigator, BRIGhTMIND study

Committee Member Royal College of Psychiatrists Psychopharmacology Committee

Executive Committee member, Northern Centre for Mood Disorders

Expert member, NIHR Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration – Treatment Resistant Depression

Research Training Lead, School of Psychiatry, NHS Health Education England

Editorial Board member, Journal of Affective Disorders

Area of expertise: Bipolar disorder - lithium - clinical MRI



My principal research interests are in the application of magnetic resonance techniques to better understand basis, trajectory and treatment of psychiatric disorders. The majority of my work centers around bipolar disorder, a major psychiatric disorder associated with substantial morbidity and mortality.

I have an enduring interest in structural brain imaging, latterly with respect to determining drug effects and the identification of biomarkers in large scale studies. My research combining structural and quantitative imaging has provided novel interpretations of the effect of lithium on the brain, pertinent to its actions in bipolar disorder. I have conducted fMRI studies using stimulant models of mania to determine the effects of lithium on dopaminergic neurotransmitter systems and am investigating is actions on neurometabolite concentrations using proton spectroscopy.

Working closely with physicists at CIVI, we are developing optimised methods to image the distribution of 7Li in the brain. Brain 7Li distribution is heterogeneous and differs between individuals, but in a manner that may relate to its effects on the brain and ultimately with respect to response to treatment. We have combined 7Li-MRI with diffusion MRI techniques to successfully co-localise the distribution of a drug and its tissue level effects in its target organ. 7Li-MRI was central to a successful Horizon 2020 proposal (R-LiNK) and we have established this technique in centres across Europe.


  • ISSF Funding (£30K) underpinning developmental work enabling the detection of brain lithium following dietary supplementation.
  • Milken Foundation (£200K) with Dresden for the BipoLith study of temporospatial pharmacokinetics of lithium in the brain.
  • ARUK (£50K) for the Imaging Lithium in Alzheimer's Disease (ILiAD) study.
  • Optimizing response to lithium treatment through personalized evaluation of individuals with bipolar I disorder: the R-LiNK initiative. SC1-PM-02-2017 Horizon 2020. €660K (€7.7M total for project) from January 2018 to December 2024.
  • Lithium magnetic resonance imaging in controls (LiMRIC): Reece Foundation. £10K from January 2018 to August 2019.
  • Bipolar Lithium Imaging and Spectroscopy Study (BLISS): Medical Research Council Clinician Scientist Fellowship. £1.3M from April 2014 to October 2020.
  • Lithium and methamphetamine studies (LAMP): Medical Research Council Clinical Research Training Fellowship. £220K from September 2006 to August 2009.


I am Mobile Leader for MRes Ageing and Health MMB8004

I contribute to teaching on psychiatry and the role of imaging in clinical research on biomedical science courses (Disorders of the Nervous System module), Masters in Clinical Psychology and the MRes course (Ageing and Health as module leader).

I am a personal tutor for MBBS and undergraduate Psychology students, and welcome interest from those wishing to undertake research project placements.

I provide clinical training and supervision within CNTW Foundation Hospital Trust, and regularly lecture on the MRCPsych course (psychopharmacology and imaging) and Northern Centre for Mood Disorders Continuing Professional Development events.