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Paul Harrison

MA, BM. BCh, DM (Oxon), FRCPsych

Professor of Psychiatry

  • Head of Translational Neurobiology Group
Neurobiology of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia

My research addresses several aspects of translational neuroscience relevant to psychosis (bipolar disorder and schizophrenia). An important starting point is that many genes which affect risk of developing psychosis have been identified, as well as several environmental factors. However, much less is known about how, why, and when, these factors increase risk. Underlying my research is the assumption that they operate to affect brain development, plasticity, and function, and our work is designed to investigate and clarify this. I have a particular interest in how the risk genes impact on glutamate signalling, and upon the psychosis risk genes which also represent potential treatment targets. Genes being studied include GRM3 (mGlu3), catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), D-amino acid oxidase, and ZNF804A. The work is supported primarily by Strategic Awards from the Wellcome Trust, and by the Medical Research Council.

My group's work formerly relied primarily on post mortem brains to conduct molecular and neuropathological studies. Although we continue to do this, we work increasingly with many collaborators to apply in vivo and in vitro models, and a range of experimental approaches, including methods to measure and modify gene expression, electrophysiology, microdialysis, behaviour, and magnetoencephalography (MEG). We are also conducting experimental medicine studies of COMT inhibitors, and are also expanding our work into RNASeq, circadian and immunological aspects of early psychosis, and particularly the translational biology of bipolar disorder. I have established links with Daniel Weinberger and colleagues, now at the Lieber Institute of Brain Development in Baltimore, where I hold an Adjunct Faculty position. 

I trained in medicine and psychiatry in Oxford and London, and was a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow before being appointed to my present post in 1997. I was awarded a Chair in 2000. I have published about 270 papers (h-index 59), and several books, including The Neuropathology of Schizophrenia, The Shorter Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry, Lecture Notes: Psychiatry, and Schizophrenia with Daniel Weinberger. I also have clinical, teaching and administrative roles. My clinical work centres on treatment-resistant mood disorder and psychosis. I am a Deputy Editor for Biological Psychiatry. I have served on various funding committees and chaired an NHS Research Ethics Committee. I have supervised 21 PhDs. Awards include the CINP/Paul Janssen Schizophrenia Prize (1998), the British Association for Psychopharmacology Senior Clinical Prize (1999), the A.E. Bennett Award of the Society of Biological Psychiatry (2004), the Joel Elkes Research Award of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (2005), the CINP Lilly Clinical Neuroscience award (2010), and the ECNP Clinical Neuropsychopharmacology award (2012). I am President of the British Association for Psychopharmacology.

 

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