Department of Psychiatry
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Research

Model of the brainThe Department of Psychiatry is home to a critical mass of clinician scientists who work in affiliation with the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program of the Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) and the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.

Areas of investigation include the epidemiological, biological, and clinical therapeutic aspects of three major foci: Mood and Anxiety Disorders, Neuropsychiatry (Multiple Sclerosis and Traumatic Brain Injury), and Dementia, which are outlined below.

Across each of these areas of inquiry, research findings are impacting on our understanding of the causes and optimal treatments of these conditions and improving the quality of life of patients suffering from these common psychiatric conditions. 

The department has national and internationally recognized and awarded scientists who hold provincial, national and internationally funded research grants.

Between the department and SRI, there are state of the art resources for basic lab-based research, clinical trials, and imaging techniques. There is also a well-developed research infrastructure with related computer equipment, library access and specialty research services. 

Finally, there are excellent research training opportunities across all levels of advancement, including undergraduate summer research studentships, graduate, and post-doctoral fellowships. The combination of outstanding research staff and excellent research resources has led the department to be a major hub of psychiatric research in the country.

Major foci

Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Scientists in the department are studying depression, bipolar disorder and the spectrum of anxiety disorders including OCD and related conditions. There are mood and anxiety assessment and treatment services within the department ranging across the lifespan from children and adolescents, adults, and the elderly. This provides a unique opportunity for scientists to examine population health, vulnerability mechanisms, and treatment approaches within a lifespan framework with a variety of methodological approaches including:
  • Neurosciences – Basic Lab Work and Imaging 
  • Genetics
  • Examination of Biological Markers of Illness Identification and Treatment Response
  • Clinical Trials – Pharmacological and Psychological Treatments
  • Population Health and Health Policy
  • Treatment Guideline Development

Neuropsychiatry

Scientists working in the area of neuropsychiatry in the department are investigating brain-behaviour correlates in disorders such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), multiple sclerosis and Conversion Disorder. Another area of investigation is post-traumatic stress disorder, funded in part by organizations like the BBC and CNN, which are interested in the effects of war reporting on journalists. The Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, which is unique in Canada, has a large database of scans from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and single photon computerized emission tomography providing the context for cutting-edge neuroscience research in the area.

Dementia and Neuropharmacology

Scientists in neuropsychopharmacology are active in the study of the pharmacological management of many central nervous system disorders such as dementia, stroke and coronary artery disease. Studies address the underlying neurobiology of neuropsychiatric symptoms by examining the predictors of treatment response, the use of novel pharmacological agents, neuroimaging techniques and the occurrence of adverse drug events.