Academic Staff

Prof. Chen

Prof. CHEN Yu Hai, Eric 陳友凱

MA(Oxon), MBChB(Edin), MD(Edin), FRCPsych, FHKAM(Psychiatry)

Chi-Li Pao Foundation Professor in Psychiatry
Chair Professor
Clinical Professor
Department Head
Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist
Director of Psychosis Studies and Intervention Program (PSI), HKU
Director of Jockey Club Early Psychosis Project (JCEP), HKU
Convenor of Early Assessment Service for Psychosis (EASY), Hospital Authority
Chairman of Hong Kong Early Psychosis Intervention Society (EPISO)
Associate Editor of Early Intervention in Psychiatry
Editorial Board in Schizophrenia Research

Website for Prof Eric Chen
The HKU Scholars Hub Page address:
ORCID: 0000-0002-5247-3593

Psychosis Studies and Intervention Program



Eric has been working on understanding how the human mind could under some conditions enter into an anomalous states, and how best to help people afflicted with these states of mind.

Mental distress occurs when the well-tuned brain system for engaging with reality fails. It results in a faulty experience external reality (expressed as delusions and hallucinations), as well as internal identity (sense of self) and emotions. While many people experience these in very mild forms. These experiences can also cascade to pathological states which overpowers the individual and causes substantial suffering and disruptions in the individual's lives.

Eric has been exploring the cognitive process, brain mechanisms, as well as the subjective experiences involved in the development of psychosis. With these understandings, he and his team have been working how best to help people afflicted with psychotic disorders. Current strategies include early detection and intervention, as well as focused psychological and pharmacological interventions in the first few critical years. Using longitudinal randomized-controlled studies, case-controlled studies, and naturalistic cohorts, Eric and his team have been studying the long-term effects of interventions. They have found that cognition, relapse prevention, physical exercise and suicidal tendencies may critically impact on the outcome. They are working on how to make use of these information to produce culturally adaptive intervention service in low-resource settings.

Prevention is better than cure. Eric’s team has also been studying the early evolution of psychotic tendencies in the general population, and in young people, where most of the onset of mental disorders take place. They are particularly keen to study the identification of an “at risk” group which can be helped by earlier interventions.

To study the impacts of psychosis, Eric and his team has been using a variety of approaches:

  • Psychopathology: to capture fine-grained phenomenology of evolving symptom dimensions.
  • Imaging platform for sMRI, fMRI, Resting state, DTI, spectroscopy and molecular imaging.
  • Computational neuroscience: to learn from neural network models consequences of disruptions in cognitive representations.
  • Digital Mental Health Platform integration with EI system
  • Cultural and environmental characterisation of changing mental experiences with young people to formulate potential impact on youth mental health
  • Early Detection and Intervention systems for particular at risk groups, such as young people and women with socioeconomic deprivation.
Eric is particularly aiming at the possibility of a deeper integration across different approaches, and their application in real-life clinical settings.

EC studied medicine at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities. He received specialist psychiatry training at Nottingham and continued senior training in Cambridge, working with top scientists from the Cambridge University Department of Psychiatry and the Medical Research Council Applied Psychology Unit. There he developed his research interest in cognitive neuroscience approach to psychopathology, in particular schizophrenia and psychosis.


EC embarked on a number of longitudinal studies on psychotic disorders in Hong Kong. He has led the development of a specialised early intervention service for psychosis in Hong Kong, the internationally recognised EASY service (Hospital Authority). With the EASY service, EC and the team endeavoured to map out the clinical pathways in the initial critical years following psychosis onset. One important piece of knowledge assembled by the team is the role of maintenance treatment following first episode psychosis (published in the BMJ). This addressed a very significant clinical problem and has attracted widespread attention. Another collaborative study (together with Professor William Honer) address the treatment of patients who became treatment refractory (published in the NEJM).

slide4 The HKU PSI Research team led by EC is currently undertaking the following major projects

  1. Model and Outcome of Adult Early Psychosis Intervention (JCEP)
  2. Optimal length of critical period intervention in early psychosis (EASY-3)
  3. 10 year follow up study of sustained effects of early intervention (HCS-10)
  4. Prodrome intervention study: reduction of psychosis onset by omega-3 fatty acid (multi-center Neurapro Study)
  5. Cognitive Neuroscience of Delusion of Reference and Disorder of agency
  6. Yoga and Aerobic Exercise effects on Brain and Cognition in first episode psychosis

EC has published over 200 research articles, including 1 book and over 10 book chapters. These articles has appeared in top medical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet, and the British Medical Journal.

Research Interests:

Early intervention and Youth Mental Health

  • Early detection and treatment of psychosis, optimal treatment for first and second episode psychosis, critical period management, factors affecting relapse and functional outcome

Cognitive Neuroscience of schizophrenia

  • Using cognitive neuroscience methods to study brain dysfunctions in schizophrenia, including memory, attention, motor and executive functions, as well as innovative approaches to language and communicative processes.

Cognitive and experiential aspects of psychopathology

  • Studies addressing the formation of symptoms in psychosis. Particular focus on early psychotic symptoms and insight, subjective experience of psychosis.

Suicide studies

  • Factorings associated with suicidal ideation in early psychosis, psychological autopsy studies

Publication list