image is not displayed...

Child and Youth Mental Health and ADHD

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is defined as a persistent syndrome with onset in early childhood and is one the most prevalent psychiatric disorders affecting up to 12% of children internationally, and approximately 8% of children in Australia. ADHD is characterized by inability to focus, high levels of impulsivity and age-inappropriate hyperactivity; following DSM-IV criteria, cases are generally categorized as inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive or combined subtypes. Up to 60% of those affected continue to experience symptoms throughout adolescence and adulthood. In addition, there is a high level of comorbidity between ADHD and other psychiatric disorders.

While a number of treatments are available, about 25 percent of individuals with ADHD do not respond well to currently available therapies. In addition, while treatments generally improve outcome they do not address all facets of the disorder. Previous work has shown ADHD to be amongst the most heritable of all psychiatric disorders.

A number of candidate genes have been identified as influencing the diagnosis of ADHD. However, these genes explain only a small proportion of the genetic risk and, notably, none of these genes has yet illuminated new pathways for treatment. Recent attempts to identify new risk variants through have been limited by a global dearth of genotyped cases, at both the individual study and the consortium levels. We are working as part of the Psychiatric Genetics Consortium to increase the sample sizes of studies looking for genetic variants influencing ADHD.

Example publications on this type of work may be found here and here


Imaging Genetics and ENIGMA

A number of groups around the world are now conducting brain imaging studies of normal individuals with MRI, DTI, and fMRI, and also obtaining (or planning to obtain) genomewide association scan (GWAS) data. The best return on our research investments will come from combining our data to achieve the large samples (thousands of subjects) necessary to detect the modest gene effect sizes that we now know are the rule rather the exception for complex traits.

The ENIGMA Network brings together researchers in imaging genomics, to understand brain structure and function, based on MRI, DTI, fMRI and genomewide association scan (GWAS) data. ENIGMA stands for: Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics Through Meta-Analysis.

The first publication from the ENIGMA consortium has been submitted for publication



This is a multicenter project, involving the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, the Forensic Science department of the University of Canberra, the Victorian State Police and the Australian Federal Police. The over arching aim of the project to develop micro-array based single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotype assays that predict forensically relevant phenotypes.

In many criminal investigations there is no knowledge of who committed the crime or what a suspect may look like. In some cases there is intelligence information in the form of eye witness accounts. The description of phenotypic traits as a result of eyewitness accounts is a standard element of police practice. Traditional facial composites employing interchangeable templates such as Photofit in the UK and Identi-Kit have been enhanced more recently by computer aided photofitting techniques such as FACES. However, eyewitness recall is notoriously inaccurate, especially after the passage of time.

DNA evidence deposited at a crime scene has the potential to provide molecular photofits, independent of any human witness. Methods now exist that allow for the collection of adequate amounts of DNA from a wide range of human biological material. At present, the use of this DNA by police investigators has been restricted to microsatellite genotyping for association of a suspect (from a DNA database of convicted felons) with biological evidence. In the absence of a 'database hit', the forensic intelligence value of DNA remains largely untapped. A 'molecular photofit' from the DNA could drastically narrow the pool of suspects under investigation, thus saving vast amounts of police resources.

Example publications on this type of work may be found here and here