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Webinar: Psychosis and Schizophrenia – How research can make a difference

To mark National Schizophrenia Awareness Day 2023 we hosted a webinar which brought researchers from across Cardiff University together to discuss their current research into the diagnoses.

The webinar was attended by over sixty people nationally and was opened by NCMH Director Professor Ian Jones.

“[Schizophrenia and psychosis] are really central to the research we do here at the National Centre for Mental Health.”

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A long, winding journey of research

To explain the importance of psychosis research, Dr Sophie Legge discussed her research into the diagnosis over the previous decade.

The mission for research as described by Dr Legge can be divided across four areas:

  • Identifying the causes of schizophrenia and psychosis
  • Prevention of illness, prediction and improving diagnosis
  • Targeting treatment and drug discovery
  • Awareness, advocacy, and de-stigmatising

“Experiences of psychosis vary from individual to individual, and we are unable to target existing treatments to the people who need it. One of the major barriers of this is a lack of understanding into the neurobiology of psychosis.”

A lot of time and developments in research have elapsed since this, and Cardiff University researchers are now focusing on genetics and the 0.01% of our DNA that differs between human to human where gene discoveries that link to schizophrenia and psychosis have been found.

“We have identified genetic components that are associated with a risk in schizophrenia. However, one of the biggest things we have learned is that there are many genes that are implicated with this risk, not just one.”

Dr Legge indicated that moving forward, the challenge for researchers like herself at Cardiff University is to determine what these discoveries mean and their biological implications, including current development in drug discovery undertaken from the Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute (NMHII).

Lived experience perspectives and the importance of public involvement

To discuss psychosis and schizophrenia from a lived experience perspective, Professor Jones introduced Mustak, who is also part of the UK Minds Patient and Public Involvement Group and works with other organisations across the West Midlands.

“I know that the road to recovery from mental ill-health is not easy. I have found meaning by giving back and adding value to other people’s lives. I chose to get involved with research because I want to make things better for those who are suffering.”

Mustak emphasised the importance of getting involved with public and patient involvement groups to make much needed progress into truly understanding particular conditions and how these can be treated, diagnosed, or even prevented.

Mustak shared his hopes that by building on this research, particularly within precision psychiatry, it will make way for a more personalised approach to treating schizophrenia and psychosis, as each experience is unique to the individual.

“I truly believe that honest research can make the world a better place.”

The mission of NCMH research

The following panellist, Dr Amy Lynham discussed how research taking place specifically at the National Centre for Mental Health has directly contributed to our understanding of schizophrenia.

“What makes the research so challenging is how schizophrenia includes so many symptoms. At the NCMH we collect detailed information and use this data to really unpick the relationship between risk factors and different symptoms.”

Dr Lynham identified the different ways in which the NCMH works which span across four areas, or ‘workstreams’:

  • in depth, one-to-one assessments,
  • linking this data with local health records to understand more about the overall health,
  • and how this ultimately helps to develop new ways of symptom monitoring and the delivery of therapy.

So far, Cardiff University researchers have already discovered that the younger an individual who presents with schizophrenia symptoms is, the less likely they are to respond to treatment.

Further findings which have benefited from linking NCMH data to health records have been identifying links between schizophrenia and other conditions like epilepsy, type two diabetes, and intellectual disability.

Dr Lynham also shared an insight to her area of research which investigates memory and schizophrenia which has led to the development of CONCA (Cardiff Online Cognitive Assessment) which is used within clinics to measure memory and concentration and identify difficulties.

Dr Lynham also shared an insight to her area of research which investigates memory and schizophrenia which has led to the development of CONCA (Cardiff Online Cognitive Assessment) which is used within clinics to measure memory and concentration and identify difficulties.

Beyond the horizon: developing a larger data cohort

Holly Pearce, who is the Project Manager of the UK Minds (UK Mental Illness and Dementia Study) discussed the aims of this study, funded by Akrivia Health, a spin-out research platform from the NHS and Oxford University.

The goal of this project is to link information held within the Akrivia platform with the information collected by the NCMH from interviews with our participants, which includes any biological data such as blood samples.

“Through linking this, we want to develop a one-of-a-kind resource which will help to develop new therapeutic treatments, tests, and further our understanding.

“When you go to the doctor for a diabetes test, perhaps there could in the future be a test which could determine your risk of developing a mental or cognitive disorder.”

The project currently works with several NHS trusts and health boards across the UK with individuals who are 18+ and have a diagnosis of either schizophrenia and psychosis, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, or dementia.

Take part today

Watch now



NCMH leaflet | Schizophrenia

Piece of Mind Podcast | Finding and losing schizophrenia | What is schizophrenia? | What is psychosis?

Ellie Short

Ellie is the Communications Officer for NCMH and the Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetic and Genomics at Cardiff University.

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