Department of Psychiatry


Research Questions

  • How can modern technology be applied in psychiatric research?
  • How can we better treat mental illness?
Research student in a lab
Research Areas

1. Geriatric Neuropsychiatry

This programme examines risks factors, causes, neuroimaging, biomarkers, mechanisms and novel intervention (such as non-invasive brain stimulation) of geriatric depression and late-life psychosis. Other topics include the relationship between dementia, geriatric depression and late-life psychosis.

Supervisor(s)

Dr CPW Cheng

 

2. Substance Misuse to Psychiatric Disorders (SToP) Program

This programme focuses on early intervention involving both pharmacological and/or non-pharmacological approaches in helping substance misusers; looking into epidemiology on substance misuse and psychiatric co-morbidities, and the prediction of conversions from substance misuse into psychiatric disorders.

Supervisor(s)

Dr AKK Chung

 

3. Sleep and Mood Disorders

This programme focuses on the epidemiology, clinical presentation, aetiology, and treatment of sleep and mood disorders. Current projects include the use of cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia in mood disorders and the application of low intensity cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia.

Supervisor(s)

Dr KF Chung

 

4. Clinical High-Risk State: Prospective Investigation and Psychosis Prediction

Individuals with clinical high-risk state are associated with markedly elevated risk of developing a full-blown psychotic disorder and functional impairment. We have adopted a prospective longitudinal follow-up approach, utilising multimodal assessments encompassing clinical, neurocognitive, functional, neuroimaging (MRI, DTI, resting-state fMRI, proton MRS) and blood-based parameters to enhance prediction models for psychosis development.

 

5. Early Intervention Evaluation and Longitudinal Outcome Investigation of First-Episode Psychosis and Bipolar Disorder

Effectiveness of extended early intervention for psychosis, and longitudinal outcomes of first-episode psychosis and bipolar disorder are examined encompassing a wide array of outcome domains including psychopathology, clinical trajectory, cognitive impairment, functional outcome, subjective quality of life, self-stigma and service utilisation.

 

6. Negative Symptoms, Motivational Deficits, Delusions and Underlying Neurocognitive Mechanisms in Early Psychosis

Negative symptoms, in particular motivational deficits, are a core feature of schizophrenia and related psychoses and are associated with pronounced functional disability. Delusions are the hallmark features of psychotic disorders and better understanding of the underlying mechanisms contributing to delusions will facilitate novel treatment development. Various research methodologies are adopted to examine neurobiological underpinnings of negative symptoms and delusions, with specific focus on the application of translational neurocognitive paradigms e.g. reward learning, effort-based decision-making and abnormal inference bias to early psychosis.

Supervisor(s)

Dr WC Chang

 

7. Neuroimaging for Psychotic Disorders

Use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate neurophysiological mechanisms of psychopathologies in psychotic disorders. MRI data analysis will be done using Freesurfer and FSL.

 

8. Big Data Analysis

Use of big data to investigate and analyse psychiatric services in Hong Kong. Data analysis methods include time-trend analysis and the Cox proportional hazards model.

Supervisor(s)

Dr EHM Lee

 

9. Neurocognitive Markers and Relapse Prediction in Psychosis

Relapse is a common problem in psychosis, affecting up to 80% of patients within 5 years after illness onset and causing substantial or even irreversible damage. However, we do not currently have a precise method to predict relapse and to prevent it from happening. Quantitative markers, such as neurocognitive deficits, have been explored recently but only by a few studies. Cognitive impairment is at the core of psychotic disorders, and if accurately assessed may provide critical information for treatment.

Supervisor(s)

Dr CLM Hui

 

10. Health Psychology: Stress Biology and Developmental Psychopathology

The overarching theme of this clinical research programme is to characterise how exposure to adversity (e.g. stressful life events) precipitates health conditions across the lifespan. Disturbances across the domains of social-cognition, emotion processing, health behaviours, cardiovascular reactivity, inflammatory activation, and molecular changes are investigated together with the biological state of the developing brain.

Current projects include a large-scale early intervention targeting disadvantaged families in two low resource districts of Hong Kong, titled KeySteps@JC. Others include examining biological markers and risk for mood disorders in a representative cohort of children transitioning to adolescence. Lastly, future research directions include online platforms, virtual reality, and telecare models to engage a wide range of community participants.

Supervisor(s)

Dr MCM Chan

 

11. Cognitive Psychopathology

This programme focuses on the elucidation of abnormal psychological processes with cognitive science and neuropsychology methods. Potential topics include the evolution of psychotic symptoms, illness awareness, executive function, attention impairments, motor system dysfunction, semantic memory impairments, social cognition, reward learning, and eye gazing; characterisation of neurocognitive impairments in various psychiatric conditions; development of new assessment paradigms; use of neurocognitive markers in prognostic and intervention prediction; prospect of cognitive remediation; neurocomputational modelling: and use of information technology and computer models in the study of thought processes and their disturbances. Brain imaging technology (magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and functional MRI) is used to study the various neurocognitive processes.

 

12. Social Cognitive Neuroscience of Mental Symptoms

Detailed studies of individual psychopathology, such as reference idea, hallucination, and insight, from both phenomenology and cognitive neuroscience perspectives. Focus will also be put on the biological underpinning of each of the psychopathological phenomena with the use of various technologies, including MRI, fMRI and positron emission tomography (PET).

 

13. Psychosocial Basis of Mental Symptoms

Detailed studies of how environmental, psychosocial, and familial factors could influence the onset of psychosis, pathway to care, individual and family's reaction to psychosis, and intervention response.

 

14. Risk Factors of Psychotic Disorders

Examine the risk factors contributing to psychosis, particularly the differences of risk factors in early-onset and later-onset psychosis. Environmental and biological factors will be investigated.

 

15. Course and Outcomes of Psychotic Disorders

This programme focuses on the characteristics of the longitudinal progression and outcomes of psychotic disorder; predictors of transition from prodromal state to first episode psychosis, treatment response, relapse, recovery and treatment resistance; subjective aspects of psychosis; integration of illness experience including recovery, quality of life, care-givers' experience and stigmatisation; suicide prevention; side effects of psychopharmacological intervention; and study of the interaction effect of environmental stress and genetics on the course of illness.

 

16. Psychological Intervention for Psychotic Disorders

Develop and evaluate specific intervention modalities targeting on different aspects of the needs of patients. Potential interventions include phase-specific case management for early intervention of psychosis, life coaching, specific cognitive behavioural therapy, psychoeducational group therapy, omega-3 treatment, mindfulness training, cognitive remediation, and physical exercise.

 

17. Early Intervention for Psychosis

Impact of early detection and intervention for psychosis; identification of risk syndromes in Hong Kong; epidemiology of psychotic-like symptoms; prediction of conversion to psychosis; intervention at prodromal level; case work for early psychosis; health economics of early intervention systems; and public awareness and information campaigns in early psychosis.

Supervisor(s)

Professor EYH Chen

Dr SKW Chan

 

18. Treatment Resistant Psychosis

Understanding the development of treatment resistant psychosis and identify way of prevention. This include using spectroscopy (MRS) and MRI to explore the potential role of different neurotransmitters and brain network. Exploring the needs of this patients including their neurocognitive profile and functional impairment to establish interventions to improve their outcomes.

 

19. Long-Term Outcomes of Psychosis and Effectiveness of Early Intervention Service

Understanding the long-term outcomes, including clinical, functional and neurocognitive function of patients with psychosis and evaluation of the effectiveness of early intervention service, including health economics.

 

20. Study of Attention in Patients with Psychosis

Using eye tracker to study the attention pattern in association with different state of mind and symptoms in patients with psychosis.

Supervisor(s)

Dr SKW Chan

 

21. Behavioural Genetics/Statistical Genetics/Bioinformatics

Development of statistical, computational and bioinformatic methods and tools for genetic studies of human diseases; application of modern genetic and genomic technologies and statistical methods to unravel the genetic basis of mental disorders and behavioural traits; collaborations with colleagues from other departments to study the genetics of other complex and mono-genetic disorders.

 

22. Statistical and Neuropsychiatric Genetics

Development and application of statistical methods to study the role of genetic and environmental factors, and brain mechanisms, in the development, treatment response, and progression of neuropsychiatric disorders. Our research uses genome-wide approaches (e.g. genome-wide association studies and whole-genome sequencing studies) to identify genetic factors for diseases, and integrated multi-omics analyses to translate genetic findings to biological insights on aetiology and mechanisms.

Supervisor(s)

Professor PC Sham

Next Step?

For more information or to express interest to join the research areas, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the description. Interested candidates are advised to enclose with your email:

  1. your CV,
  2. a brief description of your research interest and experience, and
  3. two reference letters (not required for HKUMed UG students seeking MRes[Med]/URIS projects).

Research postgraduate studies enquiries specific to the department/school’s research should be directed to the Chairman of the Departmental Research Postgraduate Committee:

Dr KF Chung
kfchung@hku.hk

Information on the research programme, funding support and admission documentations could be referenced online at the Research Postgraduate Admissions website.

General admission enquiries should be directed to rpgmed@hku.hk.

Our Students

A research student working in a laboratory.
Jane Smith (Example)

Country of origin: Name of country
Progress: PhD Year X
Supervisor: Dr AB Chan

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May 2021