Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.
  • Brain functional changes in patients with ulcerative colitis: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study on emotional processing.

    3 November 2018

    BACKGROUND: Ulcerative colitis (UC) is associated with psychological stress and poor emotional functioning. The neural emotional processing involves the complex integration of several cortical and subcortical brain structures. The amygdala plays a fundamental role in the neural processing of emotional stimuli and is a core structure of the brain-gut axis (BGA) that represents the anatomo-functional substrate for the bidirectional influences between emotions and gastrointestinal functions. The aim of this study was to investigate the brain emotional processing in UC patients compared to healthy people. METHODS: Ten UC patients in remission and 10 matched healthy controls underwent a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan while performing a task involving emotional visual stimuli. A set of negative, positive, and neutral pictures were used to study brain-related emotional responses. RESULTS: A significantly reduced blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal in UC patients relative to controls was found in the amygdala, thalamic regions, and cerebellar areas (P < 0.05 corrected for multiple comparisons). The group-related differences were detected in the brain activity in response to positive emotional stimuli. CONCLUSIONS: UC is associated with an emotional dysfunction characterized by decreased sensitivity to emotions with a positive content. The previous intestinal inflammatory activity in UC patients might have contributed to determine the functional changes of the amygdala that we found. On the other hand, the dysfunction of the amygdala may influence the course of the disease.

  • Impaired Functional Connectivity Unmasked by Simple Repetitive Motor Task in Early Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.

    3 November 2018

    BACKGROUND: Resting brain activity can be modulated by motor tasks to adapt to function. In multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, altered resting-state functional connectivity (RS-FC) has been reported and associated with impaired function and disability; little is known on how RS-FC is modulated by a simple repetitive motor task. OBJECTIVE: To assess changes in RS-FC in early relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) patients associated with repetitive thumb flexions (RTFs). METHODS: A total of 20 right-handed patients with early RRMS and 14 healthy controls underwent a resting functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan, before and after 25 minutes of alternate 30-s blocks of right RTF and rest. Dual-regression analysis of resting fMRI data followed the independent component analysis. Individual spatial maps of coherence between brain areas for 2 networks of interest, sensorimotor and cerebellar, were compared at the group level and correlated with measures of both clinical impairment and brain damage. RESULTS: Significant RTF-induced differences in RS-FC were observed between groups in the cerebellar network because of increased RS-FC in patients but not in controls. In the sensorimotor network, the RS-FC after RTF increased in both groups, with no significant between-group differences. The sensorimotor and the cerebellar RS-FC were intercorrelated only in patients and only after the RTF. The sensorimotor RS-FC increase in patients correlated with structural MRI alterations. CONCLUSIONS: Our study unmasked RS-FC changes of motor-related networks occurring after a simple repetitive motor task in early RRMS patients only. Evaluation of altered RSN dynamics might prove useful for anticipating neuroplasticity and for MRI-informed neurorehabilitation.

  • Differences in integrity of white matter and changes with training in spelling impaired children: a diffusion tensor imaging study.

    3 November 2018

    While the functional correlates of spelling impairment have been rarely investigated, to our knowledge no study exists regarding the structural characteristics of spelling impairment and potential changes with interventions. Using diffusion tensor imaging at 3.0 T, we here therefore sought to investigate (a) differences between children with poor spelling abilities (training group and waiting group) and controls, and (b) the effects of a morpheme-based spelling intervention in children with poor spelling abilities on DTI parameters. A baseline comparison of white matter indices revealed significant differences between controls and spelling-impaired children, mainly located in the right hemisphere (superior corona radiata (SCR), posterior limb of internal capsule, superior longitudinal fasciculus). After 5 weeks of training, spelling ability improved in the training group, along with increases in fractional anisotropy and decreases of radial diffusivity in the right hemisphere compared to controls. In addition, significantly higher decreases of mean diffusivity in the right SCR for the spelling-impaired training group compared to the waiting group were observed. Our results suggest that spelling impairment is associated with differences in white-matter integrity in the right hemisphere. We also provide first indications that white matter changes occur during successful training, but this needs to be more specifically addressed in future research.

  • Disrupted resting-state functional connectivity in progressive supranuclear palsy.

    3 November 2018

    BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Studies on functional connectivity in progressive supranuclear palsy have been restricted to the thalamus and midbrain tegmentum. The present study aims to evaluate functional connectivity abnormalities of the subcortical structures in these patients. Functional connectivity will be correlated with motor and nonmotor symptoms of the disease. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Nineteen patients with progressive supranuclear palsy (mean age, 70.93 ± 5.19 years) and 12 age-matched healthy subjects (mean age, 69.17 ± 5.20 years) underwent multimodal MR imaging, including fMRI at rest, 3D T1-weighted imaging, and DTI. fMRI data were processed with fMRI of the Brain Software Library tools by using the dorsal midbrain tegmentum, thalamus, caudate nucleus, putamen, and pallidum as seed regions. RESULTS: Patients had lower functional connectivity than healthy subjects in all 5 resting-state networks, mainly involving the basal ganglia, thalamus, anterior cingulate, dorsolateral prefrontal and temporo-occipital cortices, supramarginal gyrus, supplementary motor area, and cerebellum. Compared with healthy subjects, patients also displayed subcortical atrophy and DTI abnormalities. Decreased thalamic functional connectivity correlated with clinical scores, as assessed by the Hoehn and Yahr Scale and by the bulbar and mentation subitems of the Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Rating Scale. Decreased pallidum functional connectivity correlated with lower Mini-Mental State Examination scores; decreased functional connectivity in the dorsal midbrain tegmentum network correlated with lower scores in the Frontal Assessment Battery. CONCLUSIONS: The present study demonstrates a widespread disruption of cortical-subcortical connectivity in progressive supranuclear palsy and provides further insight into the pathophysiologic mechanisms of motor and cognitive impairment in this condition.

  • Language networks in anophthalmia: maintained hierarchy of processing in 'visual' cortex.

    3 November 2018

    Imaging studies in blind subjects have consistently shown that sensory and cognitive tasks evoke activity in the occipital cortex, which is normally visual. The precise areas involved and degree of activation are dependent upon the cause and age of onset of blindness. Here, we investigated the cortical language network at rest and during an auditory covert naming task in five bilaterally anophthalmic subjects, who have never received visual input. When listening to auditory definitions and covertly retrieving words, these subjects activated lateral occipital cortex bilaterally in addition to the language areas activated in sighted controls. This activity was significantly greater than that present in a control condition of listening to reversed speech. The lateral occipital cortex was also recruited into a left-lateralized resting-state network that usually comprises anterior and posterior language areas. Levels of activation to the auditory naming and reversed speech conditions did not differ in the calcarine (striate) cortex. This primary 'visual' cortex was not recruited to the left-lateralized resting-state network and showed high interhemispheric correlation of activity at rest, as is typically seen in unimodal cortical areas. In contrast, the interhemispheric correlation of resting activity in extrastriate areas was reduced in anophthalmia to the level of cortical areas that are heteromodal, such as the inferior frontal gyrus. Previous imaging studies in the congenitally blind show that primary visual cortex is activated in higher-order tasks, such as language and memory to a greater extent than during more basic sensory processing, resulting in a reversal of the normal hierarchy of functional organization across 'visual' areas. Our data do not support such a pattern of organization in anophthalmia. Instead, the patterns of activity during task and the functional connectivity at rest are consistent with the known hierarchy of processing in these areas normally seen for vision. The differences in cortical organization between bilateral anophthalmia and other forms of congenital blindness are considered to be due to the total absence of stimulation in 'visual' cortex by light or retinal activity in the former condition, and suggests development of subcortical auditory input to the geniculo-striate pathway.

  • Regional atrophy of transcallosal prefrontal connections in cognitively normal APOE epsilon4 carriers.

    3 November 2018

    PURPOSE: To investigate the possible effect of the APOE epsilon4 allele on age-related regional volume loss within the corpus callosum (CC) in healthy epsilon4 allele carriers compared with noncarriers. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 211 subjects, ages 27 to 83 years, 51 epsilon4 carriers and 160 noncarriers underwent T1-weighted MRI scan. All subjects had normal MRI scan and performed within normal range on a neuropsychological battery of tests. CC was segmented into seven functionally relevant regions using a previously published probabilistic map of the CC connectivity. We measured the volumes of the CC and its subregions. We used a regression model (with volumes as dependent and age as independent variables) and compared the slopes between carriers and noncarriers using an analysis of covariance model. We also carried out voxel-based-morphometry analysis to investigate the possible effect of the APOE epsilon4 gene on the gray matter. RESULTS: We found that the volume of the CC and all subregions decreased with increasing age in both groups. The slope was steeper in the APOE epsilon4 carriers compared withthe noncarriers particularly in the prefrontal region (P = 0.02). No gray matter differences were observed between the two groups. CONCLUSION: APOE epsilon4 polymorphism is associated with accelerated age-related volume loss in the prefrontal callosal tracts without gray matter loss. This result suggests the role of APOE epsilon4 in the brain aging by primarily affecting white matter structures particularly in the frontal lobe.

  • 2018 Away Day in Pictures

    10 January 2018

    On 9 January 2018 the Department of Psychiatry came together in the Richard Doll Building, Old Road Campus, to share ideas and latest research.

  • Prof Simon Lovestone cycles to Buckingham Palace to receive knighthood

    6 December 2017

    Professor Lovestone, who is receiving a knighthood on 7 December, in recognition of his research into Alzheimer's disease, will be cycling to the Palace as part of a 300 mile ride for Alzheimer's Research UK.

  • The hospital costs of self-harm

    8 September 2017

    Study reveals the health service costs for hospital care of people who self-harm, emphasising the need for effective clinical services and prevention initiatives.

  • Adam Al-Diwani wins the Margaret Temple Award

    8 November 2017

    Wellcome DPhil Training Fellowship researcher is awarded BMA grant given to assist research into schizophrenia.

  • Trust Me I'm a Doctor: Mental Health Special

    1 November 2017

    On 1 November, BBC Two's flagship medical show focuses on two areas of research at the Department of Psychiatry. Find out more about the research here.

  • Oxford Dementia Research Day

    30 May 2017

    NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre and ARUK Oxford Local Network are jointly hosting the annual Oxford Dementia Research Day.

  • A tribute: Elisa Favaron

    5 February 2018

    Valeria Frighi honours friend and colleague, Elisa Favaron, who tragically passed away on 19th January 2018 from breast cancer.

  • Major award to develop VR treatment in the NHS for mental health disorders

    5 February 2018

    The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) awarded £4 million to enable state-of-the-art psychological therapy to be delivered via virtual reality (VR) in the NHS.

  • 5th Course on Network Meta-Analysis

    5 February 2018

    Andrea Cipriani leads this 3-day interactive course with lectures, group work, hands-on tutorials and supervised statistical sessions for clinicians, researchers and policy makers.

  • Even moderate drinking linked to a decline in brain health, finds study

    7 June 2017

    Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with increased risk of adverse brain outcomes and steeper decline in cognitive skills, finds a study led by Dr Anya Topiwala at the Department of Psychiatry, and published by The BMJ.

  • The effect of losartan on fear learning

    6 September 2017

    We are looking for healthy volunteers aged 18-40 years and fluent in English to take part in a study investigating how a single dose of the medication losartan affects learning and information processing, using a simple computer task. Losartan is currently used to treat high blood pressure. However, we think that it may also enhance the effectiveness of psychological therapies such as Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy. The study involves three appointments of about 5 hours in total.


    2 July 2018

    MRI is a type of brain scan that allows us to see how the brain is organised and performs tasks like decision making. The scan is safe and does not involve any needles or injections. Who are we looking for? Fluent English-speaking men or women aged 18-45, who are not pregnant, with a range of symptoms of depression. You will be asked questions about your medical history to check your suitability for an MRI scan.

  • Volunteers needed for Dementia Prevention Study: European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia (EPAD)

    11 April 2018

    The European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia (EPAD study) aims to address the urgent need for new treatments designed to prevent Alzheimer’s Dementia. The main study objectives are to: 1. Learn and understand better the factors involved in developing Alzheimer’s dementia. 2. To develop new treatments more quickly which are hoped to prevent Alzheimer’s dementia.

  • Ebselen as an add-on treatment in hypo/mania

    31 October 2017

    Lithium can stabilise the highs and lows of mood but requires careful monitoring. We are interested in a new lithium-like medicine called ebselen which might help improve recovery from acute hypo/manic episodes. The study involves adding ebselen to your usual medication during an acute episode of hypo/mania.

  • Researchers at the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford are seeking volunteers for a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) study.

    6 December 2018

    The purpose of this study is to examine how the brain is organised, and how it processes information and performs skills such as thinking and speaking. TMS is a technique that allows us to stimulate the brain by rapid switching of a magnetic field in a coil placed over the head. Participants may experience some discomfort during TMS. By using this technique, we hope to find out how different brain regions contribute to perceptual decision making.

  • OxCaMS

    5 September 2017

    Have you been experiencing mood swings? Have you recently engaged in risky behaviour, been so hyper that you got into trouble, had much more energy than usual and/or been so irritable that you started fights?

  • Can brief daily mental exercises change the way the human brain processes certain kinds of information?

    20 June 2017

    The aim of this study is to investigate the effects of certain brief mental exercises on the way in which the brain processes specific kinds of information. We are looking for healthy participants (both male and female), aged 18 to 65 years. In order to participate, you must be in good health, not be regularly engaged in any kind of formal mental exercises (e.g. yoga, meditation, mindfulness practices, positive psychology exercises, psychotherapy etc.) and you must not have a history of any mental disorder (such as depression, anxiety disorder, or eating disorder). You would be invited to the Department of Psychiatry (Warneford Hospital) for two study sessions. Both sessions would take approximately 60 to 90 minutes. Between the sessions you would be assigned a brief mental exercise (taking approximately 10 minutes per day) and you would be asked to carry out this exercise each evening for 7 days. After practising for 7 days, your performance on a range of computerized psychological tasks would be assessed. If you are interested and would like more information, please contact Dr Alexander Kaltenboeck ( at the Department of Psychiatry. Ethics Approval Reference: R49254/RE003

  • Friends of Oxford Dementia and Ageing Research (OxDARE)

    27 March 2018

    Anyone who is interested in finding out more about dementia and ageing research in Oxford is invited to become a Friend of OxDARE. Friends can choose to register an interest in taking part in future studies and/or receive quarterly newsletters. When new studies get underway, OxDARE researchers will invite interested Friends to take part by email. If you are contacted by one of our researchers, it is your choice whether you would like to participate in their study or not.

  • Volunteers needed for a Virtual Reality Study!

    27 March 2018

    One 45 minute session