The Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) is home to some of the most cutting-edge schizophrenia research in the world. Psychiatrists and scientists at the Institute are studying genetic and non-genetic risk factors for schizophrenia. Research projects have confirmed a number of other factors, such as low prenatal vitamin D, advanced paternal age and cannabis use, can increase a person’s risk of schizophrenia.

Professor John McGrath

The McGrath laboratory aims to explore risk factors linked to schizophrenia and other mental disorders. They focus on non-genetic factors that are potentially modifiable. In recent years the team has been examining the impact of low vitamin D (the "sunshine hormone") during early brain development and on adult brain function.

One of Prof McGrath's studie of 3,800 people born in a Brisbane hospital in the early 1980s revealed that young people who use cannabis for extended periods have an increased risk of psychotic symptoms, such as schizophrenia. The research included 228 sets of siblings, making it the largest study of its kind ever undertaken.

“Looking at siblings is a type of natural experiment – we found the same links within the siblings as we did in the entire sample. The younger you are when you started to use cannabis – the greater the risk of having psychotic symptoms at age 21,” said lead researcher Professor John McGrath.

Professor Darryl Eyles

With a particular focus on dopamine systems, the Eyles laboratory focusses on how risk factors for schizophrenia and autism, such as developmental vitamin D deficiency and maternal immune activation, change the way the brain develops and functions. Prof Eyles work has demonstrated that a developmental vitamin D (the sunshine hormone) deficiency induces long-term changes in brain development and behaviour in animal models, and in 2009 researchers discovered that low levels of vitamin D at birth doubled a person’s chances of having schizophrenia in later life.

Professor Bryan Mowry

The primary research goal of the Mowry laboratory is to identify and functionally characterise susceptibility genes for schizophrenia and related disorders. A special focus is on the study of large collaborative samples and ethnically homogeneous populations.

Associate Professor Tom Burne

Associate Professor Thomas Burne’s group studies brain development and behaviour in animal models. The group is focussed on investigating the underlying biological basis for schizophrenia, with the goal of finding public health interventions that will alleviate the burden of this disease.

They have found that the older a person’s father, the more likely the child is to develop the symptoms of the illness.

“We have begun to accumulate evidence that there are increased risks of delaying fatherhood just as there are increased risks of delaying motherhood,” explained Associate Professor Burne.

Professor Naomi Wray

The executive team of the Progam in Complex Trait Genomics Group (PCTG) is structured into five research themes: statistical genomics, systems genomics, psychiatric genomics, MND genomics and genomics of cognitive ageing. Schizophrenia is one of the mental health disorders studied by this group.

Dr James Kesby

Advance Queensland fellow Dr James Kesby is working with clinicians on analysing the blood of high-risk and first-time patients of schizophrenia to see what neurochemical abnormalities may be going on.