Research Projects
First-Episode Bipolar Disorder & Schizophrenia – Neuro-Social Cognitive Assessment, Experience-Sampling and Digital Phenotyping for Symptom Trajectory Evaluation

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☒ MPhil/PhD ☑ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS
About the Project

Objective and Significance:

Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are severe mental disorders which affect 2-3% of the population and constitute one of the leading cause of disability worldwide. The initial few years of illness represent a critical period in determining long-term outcome and a window of opportunity to unravel neurobiological abnormalities underlying these conditions. To this end, we develop a clinicalresearch platform systematically examining patients with first-episode bipolar disorder (FE-BD) and first-episode schizophrenia (FES) in terms of symptom evolution, cognitive dysfunction, and functional ramifications. Specifically, we utilize the following approaches to capture refined illness trajectory and to identify underpinning neurobiological aberrations:

(1) Standard neurocognitive and social cognitive assessments

(2) Experience-sampling methodology to capture real-time moment-to-moment intra-individual variation and trajectory of symptom manifestations (using mobile app)

(3) Digital phenotyping to quantify objective, passive data such as geolocation, activity level, sleep quality etc. (using mobile app) over a course of observational period in real-life so as to identify longitudinal psychological-physical symptoms for outcome prediction

(4) Hypothesized-based cognitive paradigms e.g. biased inference decision-making, novelty salience computerized tasks to verify its associations with psychotic symptoms

Research Plan and Methodology:

This is a prospective follow-up cohort study on FE-BD and FES patients who will undergo comprehensive assessments on clinical, functional, neuro- and social-cognitive measures. In addition, mobile-app-based experience-sampling and digital objective data will be collected. Neuroimaging assessment will also be conducted. Hypothesized-based cognitive paradigms will be adopted to further clarify the potential neurocognitive mechanisms underlying psychosis development. MRes candidate can be involved in research subcomponents of this first-episode study for an individual project.

About the Supervisor

Dr WC Chang, Department of Psychiatry


Next Step?

For more information or to express interest for this project, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the project 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).

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

HKUMed MBBS students interested in the Master of Research in Medicine (MRes[Med]) programme may visit the programme website for more information.  

HKUMed UG students interested in the Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme (URIS) may visit the scheme’s website for more information.