Psychiatry & Mental Health

Genetic and Environmental Factors

Our Professors of Adult, Adolescent and Child Psychiatry lead research programmes which investigate genetic and environmental factors which protect or predispose patients to a variety of psychiatric conditions. Current research includes, but is not limited, to:

  • Affective Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Suidical Attempts and Ideation

UCD Psychiatry, Psychotherapy & Mental Health Research

Research Group

The UCD Psychiatry, Psychotherapy & and Mental Health Research group comprises a network of psychiatrists, psychotherapists and psychologists who lead an extensive programme of research-led academic activity.  The group is involved in both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and research. 

Teaching and research takes place both on the University campus (UCD Health Science Centre, UCD Conway Institute and UCD Geary Institute) and across six clinical centres.

Teaching & Learning

We currently deliver PSYC40150 a core module in UCD's Undergraduate and Graduate-Entry Degrees in Medicine and we also contribute to MDSA 40040, a module on Reproductive Medicine, Psychological Medicine and Child Health.

We are involved in Basic and Higher Specialty Training in Adult Psychiatry in the following sites:

We are involved in Basic and Higher Specialty Training in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the following sites:

We are currently involved in the delivery of the UCD SMMS's MSc. in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Children and Adolescents and the Graduate Diploma in Child Mental Health. We are also involved in the delivery of a number of Postraduate Programmes in Psychotherapy.


Sample material from our bank of E-learning resources can be viewed on our E-learning showcase page. Our postgraduate content is hosted on Elearn2, UCD's auxiliary learning management system for the purposes of validation.

Protective Genetic Variants in Suicidal Behaviour

Patients with psychiatric disorders are at higher risk for suicide attempts, however protective and risk genetic variants for suicide appear to be independent of underlying psychiatric disorders. Prof Kevin Malone and his research group are investigating genetic variants in genes important for neurobiological pathways linked to suicidal behaviour and/or associated endophenotypes, for association with suicide attempts among patients with co-existing psychiatric illness. Their work investigates gene-gene and gene-environment interaction factors.

A study on approximately 150 psychiatric patients (including both suicide attempters and non-attempters) has identified 4 single nucleotide polymorphisms which showed evidence of association with suicide attempts compared to the non-attempter control group. The research group have evidence of a 3-locus gene-gene interaction, and a putative gene-environment interaction, whereby genetic variation at a particular locus may moderate the risk associated with history of childhood abuse.  Preliminary findings suggest that allelic variability in three candidate genes may be relevant to the underlying diathesis for suicidal acts.

Reference: Behav Brain Funct. 2011 Jun 28;7:22.


Improving the Identification and Management of Adjustment Disorder

Although adjustment disorder has been a recognised psychiatric condition for many years, there have been comparatively little epidemiological research. Professor Patricia Casey (UCD Professor of Psychiatry at Mater Misericordiae University Hospital) have identified the prevalence of adjustment disorder in primary care, and found general practitioner recognition very low but with high rates of antidepressant prescribing.

Possible reasons for the seemingly low prevalence, recognition rate and inappropriate management include its recognition as a residual category in diagnostic instruments and poor delineation from other disorders or from normal stress responses. Professor Casey has described how two common instruments could be rectified to include, among other changes, recognition as full syndromal status.

Reference: Br J Psychiatry. 2012 Aug;201:90-2.

Influence of Puberty on Eating Disorder Among Adolescents

Professor Fiona McNicholas (UCD Professor of Child Psychiatry at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin and the Lucena Clinic, Dublin) has investigate the impact of pubertal status and pubertal timing on disordered eating in Irish adolescents.  In one of her studies, approximately 3,000 boys and girls completed two validated Eating Attitudes tests and recorded self-report measures of pubertal status and pubertal timing.

Greater reported maturity in pubertal status among girls was associated with increased overall eating concerns, higher drive for thinness and higher levels of body dissatisfaction. In boys, greater maturity was associated with lower drive for thinness and lower body dissatisfaction.

Regarding pubertal timing, early-maturing girls showed the most eating concerns, the highest drive for thinness, scored highest on bulimic symptoms and were the most dissatisfied with their bodies. In contrast, late-maturing boys had more bulimic symptoms and more dissatisfaction with their bodies than on-time peers.

These findings suggest that puberty itself is a risk factor for disordered eating for girls rather than boys; however, pubertal timing is a risk factor for both.

Reference: Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2012 Sep;20(5):355-62. doi: 10.1002/erv.2171. Epub 2012 Apr 4.