Epidemiology and clinical trials

Exploring risk factors linked to schizophrenia and other mental disorders


Donate       Study with us

In 2015 the McGrath group commenced a major new research program to find better treatments for psychotic disorders.

Funded by the John Cade Fellowship, and in collaboration with Associate Professor James Scott (UQ Centre for Clinical Research), the McGrath group and staff from the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research have linked up with clinicians around south-east Queensland. The Cadence clinical trials program has commenced randomized control trials of new candidate treatments for those with psychosis. 

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. In collaboration with Professor Darryl Eyles and Associate Professor Thomas Burne, they have developed animal models to examine the impact of low vitamin D during gestation on brain development. The group has established a new research program with Professor Pankaj Sah and Dr Helen Gooch to explore links between vitamin D and voltage-gated calcium channels. Previously in 2013, Professor McGrath was awarded a prestigious National Health and Medical Research Council John Cade Fellowship in Mental Health Research.

These funds have allowed the group to explore a wider range of modifiable risk factors (e.g. infectious agents, stress, cannabis, vitamin D), a more diverse range of brain-related outcomes (e.g. prenatal and neonatal brain growth, childhood neurocognition, autism, schizophrenia, other mental disorders), and a wider range of epidemiological samples (in collaboration with national and international groups). New projects include an international study related to psychotic experiences in the general community (Harvard University and 19 other universities). The group has also been extending studies related to vitamin D in international datasets by exploring gene-environment interactions.

In 2016, Professor McGrath was awarded the prestigious Niels Bohr Professorship in Denmark to continue his ground-breaking research into schizophrenia.

Group videos

Our Vision

Early psychosis researchers and network


Group leader

Professor John McGrath

Professor John McGrath

Group Leader, Epidemiology and clinical trials

  +61 7 334 66372
  +61 7 327 18694
  UQ Researcher Profile

Research areas

The Niels Bohr Professorship will focus on innovation related to psychiatric epidemiology. The program consists of four inter-linked themes that aim to expand and strengthen the collaboration between the National Center for Register-based Research, the University of Queensland, Statens Serums Institute and Harvard University.

1.    NB-VitD

The NBP will follow up on recent discoveries linking neonatal vitamin D and risk of mental disorders - we will strengthen links with the iPSYCH consortium - a major program of psychiatric research in Denmark, founded by the Lundbeck Foundation. We will measure neonatal vitamin D concentration in the iPSYCH2012 case-cohort sample.

2.    NB-G+E

Genetic risk factors are important for mental disorders, as they are for many non-communicable disorders. Advances in statistical genetics have allowed us to build polygenic risk scores that can provide individual-level estimates of risk. We can now combine these genetic scores (G) with risk factors from the environment (E). In collaboration with Professors Naomi Wray and Peter Visscher from the Queensland Brain Institute, the University of Queensland, we will explore innovative strategies to combine genetic and environmental risk factors.

3.    NB-Health Metrics

In recent years the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation has established a network of collaborators around the world to measure the burden of disease around the world. A team led by Professor Harvey Whiteford at the University of Queensland, and the Queenland Centre of Mental Health Research, have compiled estimates related to the epidemiology of mental disorders and substance use disorders. New techniques have become available that allow the research community to estimate the burden of mental disorders for countries. We will leverage high quality Danish health registers to estimate the burden of treated mental disorders in Denmark, and use individual-level data to explore ways to capture comorbidity within mental disorders.

4.    NB-COMO

Psychiatric epidemiology undertaken by researchers at the NCRR Aarhus University, and within the WHO World Mental Health Survey initiative have clearly shown that people with mental disorder rarely have only one condition. Over the lifespan, the patterns of mental disorders change, and often people have several different mental disorders at the same time. This is called comorbidity. In order to understand the burden of mental disorders in the community, we need to estimate patterns of comorbidity (thus COMO for short). Genetic research has demonstrated that different types of mental disorder can share common risk variants. The NB-COMO theme will link all of the co-investigators named on the NBP. We aim to map patterns of COMO based on Danish registers, and samples from within the World Mental Health Survey, and other large datasets. We will use this information to build new phenotypes suitable for genetic studies.

Our team

Group Leader

Research Members

Support Staff

Research excellence

$33M in grants last calendar year
400 peer-reviewed publications last calendar year
5 Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science

$200M+ in cumulative funding
Our researchers are cited 3x more than average
100% of donations go to the cause

Share our discoveries and support our research

 Donate      Learn with us

What's new

  • Children with older fathers are more susceptible to mental health disorders a University of Queensland (UQ) study has found. Led by the Queensland Brain Institute’s (QBI) Professor John McGrath, an international team of researchers used Danish health registers to examine the maternal and paternal age of 2,894,688 offspring at birth.
  • A $3.75 million investment in research at The University of Queensland (UQ) will advance innovative work on the link between vitamin D and mental health.
  • Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) researchers have discovered a genetic mechanism that may explain why the children of older fathers are more likely to develop schizophrenia or autism.


Connect with us