Investigating how rare genetic variants increase schizophrenia risk

John Grace QC PhD Scholarship 2018: 
 Division of Psychiatry, University College London

Supervisors: Dr Elvira Bramon, Prof Richard Mott and Prof George Kirov


Schizophrenia is caused by both environmental as well as genetic risk factors. Some rare genetic factors increase schizophrenia risk between two and thirty-fold and they are the focus of this project. Study aims 1. Investigate the influences that these high-risk genetic variants have on brain structure and function. 2. Understand what protects many carriers of high-risk variants from developing schizophrenia. How we will do the research: We will analyse a large sample of UK and European families, where at least one member has schizophrenia. More than 14,000 participants have donated their DNA and undergone brain scans, electroencephalograms, psychological and clinical assessments. Why is this important? Understanding the genetics of schizophrenia is key to develop new treatments. 

Research Student: Rebecca Muir

"Hi, I'm Becca and I am starting a PhD in Psychiatry at University College London in October 2018. I am interdisciplinary researcher with experience spanning genetics, behavioural science and psychological science. 
Previously I completed an MSc (distinction) in Cognitive Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, and a Bsc (hons) Biology degree at the University of Bath. 

During my undergraduate degree, I worked in the Medical Sciences Division of Oxford University, developing strong quantitative skills which I hope to build upon in my research project. I have also most recently worked in the charity sector and volunteered for the women's emotional health charity, Tyneside Womens' Health. I am excited to begin a project, which combines my interests in genetics and health, and I am very grateful to MHRUK for funding this opportunity. "

Start Date: September 2018

Study Aims:

1. Characterise the effects of copy number variants (CNVs) on cognition, neuroanatomy and neurophysiology.

2. Develop a multifactorial risk score combining CNVs, common genetic variants and key environmental factors.