Our lab uses state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques in humans and animal models to investigate the neural mechanisms involved in emotions, and their role in the development of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. We combine multimodal brain imaging methods to ask questions about the interactions between neurochemistry, neurophysiology and neuroanatomy in the development of psychosis, with a focus on brain circuits involved in how people process and regulate emotions. We use preclinical models to delineate with increased precision the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in our human observations, and apply psychopharmacological approaches to probe how to intervene on those mechanisms early to prevent or delay the development of psychosis.
We do this through three interrelated research themes:
- The role of excitation/inhibition balance in the pathophysiology and prevention of psychosis: We combine multi-scale approaches (from genes to cells to whole-brain neuroimaging) in patients in the early stages of psychosis and in relevant rodent models to understand the fundamental mechanisms underlying the development of psychosis. We also use state-of-the-art translational neuroimaging methods across species to study the effects of pharmacologically modulating these brain mechanisms towards preventing the development of psychosis-like phenotypes.
- Emotion processing in the extended psychosis phenotype: We use neuroimaging methods and behavioural assays to characterise the neural basis of emotion processing across a psychosis spectrum (schizotypy, clinical high risk of psychosis, first-episode psychosis).
- From mechanisms to big data: ENIGMA Schizotypy. Gemma founded the ENIGMA Schizotypy working group, bringing together schizotypy researchers worldwide towards large scale analyses of neuroimaging data across many different studies and datasets, to delineate the neural signatures of subclinical psychotic-like experiences in healthy individuals.