We are using a range of novel imaging techniques to map the brain and understand normal brain development. Our aim is to pinpoint the neurodevelopmental changes that lead to mental illness, enabling us to identify and treat patients in the critical window before symptoms develop.

Mental illness is the second most costly disease after heart disease. We know that mental illness is caused by underlying biological changes to the brain in youth, but we do not have a clear idea of how the normal, healthy brain changes and develops during this time.

We are using new imaging techniques and analyses including structural MRI, Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), functional MRI (fMRI) and EEG to systematically study and understand how the healthy brain changes and develops in people aged from eight to 38. This will enable us to identify the developmental changes that predict the onset of mental illness.

This research is unique because we are gathering longitudinal rather than cross sectional data, enabling us to follow the changes in individuals’ brains over a period of time. It will provide clinicians, for the first time, a way of validating their diagnoses beyond relying on symptoms alone.