Research Areas

Department of Psychiatry

How can modern technology be applied in psychiatric research?

How can we better treat mental illness?

Major Research Areas

Geriatric psychiatry:
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.

Contact Person

Dr C.P.W. Cheng
Email: chengpsy@hku.hk

Substance Misuse to Psychiatric Disorders (SToP) Program:
This program 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.

Contact Persons

Dr A.K.K. Chung
Email: chungkka@hku.hk

Sleep and mood disorders:
This programme focuses on the epidemiology, clinical presentation, etiology, 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.

Contact Persons

Dr K.F. Chung
Email: kfchung@hku.hk

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 and blood-based parameters to enhance prediction models for psychosis development.

Contact Persons

Dr W.C. Chang
Email: changwc@hku.hk

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.

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.

Contact Persons

Dr E.H.M. Lee
Email: edwinlhm@hku.hk

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.

Contact Persons

Dr C.L.M. Hui
Email: christy@lmhui.com

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.

Contact Person

Dr M.C.M. Chan
Email: mcmchan@hku.hk

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Contact Person

Professor E.Y.H. Chen
Email: eyhchen@hku.hk

Dr S.K.W. Chan
Email: kwsherry@hku.hk

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.

Contact Person

Professor P.C. Sham
Email: pcsham@hku.hk

Departmental Postgraduate Admission Advisor

Dr K.F. Chung
Email: kfchung@hku.hk