Research


















































































































































































































































































































































































































Research Programmes

Clinical Brain Disorder Studies

Interdisciplinary Clinical Neuroscience Studies

Interventional Studies


Clinical Brain Disorder Studies

Psychotic Disorders Research (PSI)


Psychotic Disorders is a group of condition associated with the failure in brain systems that normally assist us in constructing our ideas of what is “real” around us. This failure particularly affects our perception and interpretation of social reality, reflecting the brain system that might be selectively affected. In some conditions such as schizophrenia, there is a more widespread effect on cognitive systems involved in planning, motivation, and emotional regulation. Psychotic disorders are difficult conditions for the patients and families and are associated with heavy stigma. Delays in help-seeking are considerable. Population-specific factors may affect the presentation and outcome of psychosis. Skillful integration of biomedical and psychosocial skills and integrated teamwork over a longer period of time are often necessary for achieving the best outcomes. Early Intervention programs for psychosis seek to reduce delay, prevent full-blown development of illness, as well as focused specialized treatment in the initial years following first diagnosis. We explore the genetic and early developmental aspects of psychosis in collaboration with the genome research center, the behavioural neuroscience program, as well as epidemiological studies to identify population specific factors for psychosis in Hong Kong. We study the first presentation, treatment delay, pathway to care, and public awareness strategies. We explore in depth the brain and cognitive mechanisms underlying psychotic symptoms, as well as their evolution and responses to treatment. We study the effectiveness of early intervention program in Hong Kong as a whole, as well as explore innovative treatment components, both in biomedical and psychosocial therapies.



Prof. EYH Chen

Dr. SKW Chan
Dr. EHM Lee
Dr. WC Chang
Dr. Christy Hui

Sleep Disorders Research


Epidemiology, clinical presentation, etiology and treatment of major sleep disorders. The use of innovative approaches, such as traditional Chinese medicine and web-based cognitive behavioural therapy as treatments for insomnia.


Dr. KF Chung
Dr. WF Yeung

Aging, Cognitive, and Mood Disorders Research


Dementia is a highly debilitating condition afflicting a significant number of the elderly population. It carries profound medical and socioeconomic burdens for the society. Current treatment options have provided only limited success. Projects focus on: 1) earlier detection of cognitive and brain functional decline, 2) translational pharmacotherapy of dementing disorders, and 3) prevention of cognitive deterioration, 4) psychiatric manifestations of dementia, and 5) brain mechanisms of cognitive impairment.


Dr. WC Chan

Interdisciplinary Clinical Neuroscience Studies

Behavioural Genetics and Bioinformatics


Development of statistical, computational and bioinformatic tools for genetic studies of complex disorders. Application of modern genetic and genomic technologies to unravel the genetic basis of mental disorders and behavioural traits. Collaborations with colleagues from other departments to study the genetics of other complex disorders.

Current/Developing projects in Psychiatry:
  • GWAS study on schizophrenia
  • Identification of rare genetic variants causing schizophrenia
  • Gene environment interaction in psychosis

Prof. Pak C Sham
Dr. Stacey Cherny
Dr. Li Miaoxin
Dr. Amy Butler
Dr. Desmond Campbell
Dr. Johnny Kwan
Dr. Clara Tang

Cellular and Behavioural Neuroscience


We explore the biological basis for mental disorders using a variety of neuroscience techniques. We use rodent models to examine how exposures during fetal life might have persistent effects on brain development even into adulthood. We measure the impact of these exposures on brain and behaviour using behavioural phenotyping, in-vivo MRI and analysis of gene and protein expression in brain tissue. Brain cell cultures are also used to study different molecular and neuron level processes, which may contribute to a range of mental health conditions. The studies aims to link genetic findings, brain mechanisms, and translate findings into meaningful clinical preventative and therapeutic strategies.

Current/Developing projects in Psychiatry:
  • Astrocytes and endothelial cell disturbances in cognitive disorders
  • Animal behavioural studies on autism and schizophrenia
  • Apoptosis and maternal infection in neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Dendritic and synaptic dysfunctions in depression pathogenesis
  • MRI studies on autism

Prof. Pak C Sham
Dr. Li Qi

Brain and Cognitive Psychopathology


The human brain has evolved systems to handle complex social cognitive problems. Failure in these systems results in misperception of the social environment and failure to adapt to social reality, leading to many classical psychopathologies in psychosis. This program studies the brain cognitive mechanisms behind such failures, consider their interactions with the social environment, and suggest innovative therapeutic approaches. A range of methodologies from neurocognitive science, social science, combining with brain imaging technologies and neurocomputational modeling are utilized in the program.

Current/Developing projects:

  • Formation of delusions
    This is a project to comprehensively study the phenomenology, cognitive and brain mechanism of delusions of reference, the neurobiological mechanisms and clinical implications of this phenomenon.
  • Language and semantic system dysfunction in Psychosis
    This is to study the language and semantic system dysfunctions in patients with psychosis. Innovative assessment tools are developed.
  • Eye gaze social behavior dysfunction
    Gaze perception is one the most important social information, particularly self-directed gaze. This project aims at characterizing this phenomenon in clinical population, evaluating its brain process and its clinical implications.
  • Brain reward system dysfunction in psychosis
    Reward system is critically linked to dopamine neurotransmission which is dysregulated in psychosis. In this regard, investigation of reward learning in psychosis can shed light on the neuro-cognitive and neurobiological mechanisms underlying key symptom domains of schizophrenia especially motivational deficits.


Prof. EYH Chen
Dr. WC Chang
Dr SKW Chan
Dr EHM Lee
Dr Christy Hui
Dr WC Chan

Brain Structure and Connectivity


We try to map out brain function and connectivity of various psychopathologies and mental disorder in order to enrich our understanding of the most mysterious organ of human body, our brain. Current projects study mental disorders including Autism, ADHD, Psychosis, Parkinsons and Dementia. The psychopathologies being studied include apathy, idea of reference, self-directed gaze perception and reward process.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies (structural MRI, functional MRI, resting state MRI, Diffusion Tensor Imaging) of complex brain disorders involve mood, speech, cognition and behavioural systems. In particular exploration of neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism and schizophrenia.


Dr. SKW Chan
Prof. Eric Chen
Dr. EHM Lee
Dr. WC Chang
Dr. Viñas-Guasch Nestor

Ecological Psychiatry


Socio-environmental factors interacting with brain mechanisms play a critical role in the development of psychotic disorders. Prolonged exposure to these social-psychological adversities may lead to hyper-sensitization of dopamine neurotransmission and increased risk for psychosis. Paradigms to investigate Gene and Environment interactions in the aetiology and outcome represents a potentially fruitful approach in schizophrenia research. We used population-based surveys and experience sampling method to study factors related to psychotic disorders as well as psychotic like symptoms. Detailed cognitive psychopathological and brain system studies will complement explorations of the brain mechanisms underlying these environmental risks.

Current/Developing projects:
  • A population-based study of Psychosis and Psychotic-like symptoms
    Part of the territory-wide epidemiological study in collaboration with the Chinese University of Hong Kong, to investigate the prevalence and associated factors of psychotic disorders and sub-clinical psychotic symptoms in 5700 representative subjects in Hong Kong.

  • Psychotic-like experiences (PLEs) in the general population of Hong Kong: a prospective follow up study
    A 2-year prospective study of evolution of psychotic-like experiences (PLEs) associated environmental risk factors and neurocognitive functions, to verify the psychosis proneness-persistent-impairment model of psychosis.

  • Migration and psychosis
    To systematically investigate the effects of immigration on risk for psychosis in Hong Kong and to examine whether the immigration effect is related to economic deprivation, social isolation, urban-rural residence transition, chronic exposure to social adversities.

  • Gene and environment interactions in determining cause and outcome of psychotic disorde
    Gene and environment interactions in psychosis will be explored. Experience sampling methodology, a refined ecological investigative approach, will also be applied to capture everyday real-life environmental influences.


Dr. WC Chang
Prof. EYH Chen
Dr. SKW Chan
Dr. EHM Lee
Dr. Christy Hui

Health Psychology


Understanding the interplay between women's physical and mental health using a health psychology framework. Areas of interest include antenatal and postnatal mental health problems; psychological context of menopause; premenstrual syndrome and menstrual distress; eating disorders and body image problems; psychological intervention for menopausal women; psychological intervention for patients with gynecological cancers; development and validation of instruments for assessing various areas of women's mental health; decision-making processes in obstetrics and gynecological settings. More general health psychology projects include psychological distress of colorectal cancer patients, youth high-risk behaviours and mental health problems, and the sociocultural aspects of health and illness.



Dr. KF Chung
Dr. WC Chan
Prof. EYH Chen

Computational neuroscience applications in Psychiatry


Neurocomputation models have been used to explore the parallel distributed nature of information handling in the brain. The effects of pertubation of such system provide insights to pathogenetic pathways of how biological brain system dysfunctions might link to cognitive and experiential psychopathologies. Models of psychosis and symptom formation have been proposed.

Current/Developing projects:
  • Attractor neural network model for brain and dopamine dysfunction psychosis
  • Neurocomputational models of psychotic symptom formation
  • Neurocomputational model of early psychosis


Prof. EYH Chen
Dr. SKW Chan
Dr. EHM Lee
Dr. WC Chang
Dr. Christy Hui

Interventional Studies

Jockey Club Mental Wellness Project for Women (JCWOW)


Jockey Club Mental Wellness Project for Women (JCWOW) constructs a comprehensive real-life system to improve mental health and prevent mental disorders in grassroots women (Women-In-Need, WiN). WiN is a high-risk population that experience more mental disorders, including psychosis. WiN with psychosis have particularly adverse outcomes. Mass-media health messages also have less penetration amongst WiN.

A comprehensive eclectic gender-specific program is required to enhance early detection of WiN at risk of mental disorders and to offer preventative intervention before disorders are entrenched. By reducing psychosocial stress and maladaptive thinking patterns, the program aims to prevent the onset of mental disorders, as well as to improve the outcome of those with psychosis through empirically demonstrated Body-Mind-Spirit Interventions.



Prof. EYH Chen
Dr. SKW Chan
Dr. EHM Lee
Dr. WC Chang
Dr. Christy Hui

Cognitive and Psychological Interventions


Patients with psychotic disorders exhibit profound impairment in psychosocial functioning. Cognitive dysfunction, a core feature of psychosis, is one of the key limiting factors for functional improvement. Both cognitive deficits and functional disability remain an unmet therapeutic need beyond the reach of conventional pharmacotherapy.
Aerobic exercise was found to improved cognitive outcome with an associated increase in hippocampal volume in schizophrenia patients. We follow this up in early stage patients with mind-body exercise as well as aerobic exercises, looking into cognition, brain structure and connectivity changes. We will also implement and evaluate an exercise programme tailor made of psychosis patients in real-life situations.
Motivational deficit as a consequence of dysfunction of the brain reward system also compromise clinical outcome. We have been development innovative intervention to address this problem. For example the use of life coaching and other specific motivational techniques in improving patients functional outcomes.

Current/Developing projects:  

  • The impacts of yoga and aerobic exercise on neuro-cognitive function and brain structure in early psychosis-A randomized controlled clinical trial
  • Effectiveness of incorporating transtheoretical model in exercise program for patients with psychosis
  • A real life community exercise program to enhance cognitive function in psychosis patients
  • A randomized controlled trial on recovery-oriented coaching intervention for patients with early psychosis
  • Randomized controlled trial of 1-year extended case management on patients presenting with first-episode psychosis to EASY program (EASY3 study)


Prof. EYH Chen
Dr. WC Chang
Dr. EHM Lee
Dr. WC Chan

Clinical Psychopharmacology


Pharmacological Treatment is the main stay of therapy for many mental health conditions. The optimal use of various agents to treat, maintain, and prevent deterioration is a key to better outcome. We have focused on studying relapse in first episode psychosis. We have also set up programs to investigate treatment related side effects and lack of response, in the hope of exploring innovative treatment strategies. Innovative adjunct therapy with a traditional chinese herbal extracts (ginsenosides) have been explored to enhance cognitive function in chronic patients. Use of Traditional Chinese Medicine to address hyperprolactinaemia is being carried out in collaboration with the School of Chinese Medicine.

Current/Developing projects:
  • Relapse prevention study (RPS project)
    This randomized controlled trial aimed to examine an efficacy of maintenance antipsychotic treatment versus planned treatment discontinuation after 1 year of treatment in patients with remitted first-episode psychosis on relapse rate. The study results showed that 1-year relapse rate was significantly higher in the discontinuation group (79%) than maintenance group (41%). This was the first study demonstrating a high relapse rate in remitted patients who had already treated with 1-year antipsychotic treatment with subsequent allocation to medication discontinuation, thereby highlights the need to continue antipsychotic treatment to prevent relapse.

  • Relapse prevention study: 8-year prospective follow-up (RPS8 project)
    This study aimed to follow up the RPS cohort and examine the 8-year clinical and functional outcomes. The findings will help clarify the potential clinical value of a period of antipsychotic discontinuation on long-term illness outcome.

  • Treatment resistance
    We collaborated with Prof Honer in carried out a classic study on the use of risperidone augmentation to clozapine in the treatment of clozapine resistant patients. Further studies are under way to explore neurobiological mechanisms of development of treatment resistant schizophrenia-spectrum disorders.

Dr. SKW Chan
Prof. EYH Chen
Dr. WC Chang
Dr. EHM Lee
Dr. Christy Hui
Dr. WC Chan

Traditional Chinese Medicine in Mental Health


Traditional Chinese medicine, one of the oldest medical systems in the world, has a long history of application in mental health. Based on an individual's symptoms and signs, the patterns of bodily disharmony are described in term of yin and yang, external and internal, hot and cold, excess and deficiency. Additional systems, such as qi, blood and body fluid differentiation, and zang fu differentiation are also used. Treatment principles and specific herbal formula or acupoints are derived. We have conducted or are conducting a number of randomized controlled trials on acupuncture, auricular therapy, and Chinese herbal medicine for treatment of psychiatric disorders.


Dr. KF Chung
Dr. WF Yeung

Prevention of Psychosis


Indicated prevention of psychosis depends on the identification of an high risk group and development of preventative strategies to reduce the risk of transition from a high risk group to full-blown psychotic disorders. Our team has carried out naturalistic study of high risk groups, as well as explored psychopathological and brain markers that may enhance the prediction of transition to psychosis. Preventative strategies such as neuroprotective agents, or psychosocial intervention, are currently being explored.
-To identify clinical, cognitive and neuroanatomical variables predictive of transition to full-blown psychotic disorder from clinical high-risk state.

-To examine efficacy of various pharmacological and psychosocial interventions on preventing psychosis transition in individuals at clinical at-risk mental state.

Current/Developing projects:
  • The Neuropro-E project
    A multi-center RCT of omega-3 fatty acids and cognitive-behavioural case management for symptomatic patients at ultra-high risk for early progression to schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. This is a double-blind placebo-controlled study designed to examine the effects of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA / DHA) and cognitive-behavioural case management on rate of transition to psychosis from at-risk mental state



Dr. EHM Lee
Mr. Kaspar Lee
Dr. SKW Chan
Dr. EHM Lee
Dr. WC Chang
Dr. Christy Hui

Long-term Course of Psychosis


Long-term outcome studies are extremely informative in helping to identify risk factors for poor outcome and identify potential protective factors and therapeutic factors. They are difficult to study and maintain and a limited number of studies have been set up worldwide. Studies in an Asian context are particularly important to explore the contribution of factors unique to a non-western population.
The research findings can provide insights in determinants of the illness outcome, underlying mechanisms implicated in different courses of the illness (e.g. biological toxicity hypothesis of untreated psychosis), addressing as-yet unanswered research question of neuro-developmental versus neuro-degenerative hypotheses for psychosis, as well as development of effective interventions in improving patients’ prognosis.

Current/Developing projects:
  • 12-year naturalistic outcome of First-episode psychosis (FEP12 study)
    This study aimed to examine the 12-year clinical and functional outcomes of first-episode psychosis patients based on FEP3 cohort. This investigation will facilitate development of a prediction model for long-term illness outcome incorporating multiple domains including pre-morbid adjustment, socio-demographics, baseline clinical and cognitive parameters, and early illness outcome variables.

  • 5 Year follow up RCT comparing 2-year with 3-year of intensive intervention (EASY5 study)
    This naturalistic prospective study aims to follow up the EASY3 study cohort to examine whether the initial beneficial effects of 1-year extended case management on illness outcome can be sustained in 2-year period. This study will therefore provide important data addressing the current as-yet unknown clinical and research question on the optimal duration of early intervention for psychosis.

  • 10 Year case-controlled study comparing Early Intervention with a well-matched Historical Control
    This study compares the effects of early intervention program (EASY) and standard generic psychiatric are on clinical and functional outcomes in patients presenting with first-episode psychosis. The results showed that at 3 years, EASY was more superior than standard care in improving functioning, symptom severity, and reducing hospitalization and suicide rate. An extension study looked at 10 year outcomes, both clinical and functioning, of early intervention and standard service. Cost-effectiveness of the specialized intervention service will be evaluated.

  • Hong Kong Outcome of Psychosis Evaluation (HOPE) study
    This is a new prospective long-term first-onset psychosis study to test new hypotheses. The study prospectively examine the determinants of long-term clinical and functional outcomes of psychotic disorders in a large representative cohort of patients presenting with first-episode psychosis to EASY programs. The study will specifically focus on investigating predictors of relapse, treatment-resistance and persistent negative symptoms, as well as clarifying the illness trajectory of those less frequent diagnostic entities such as delusional disorder and acute psychosis. Alongside clinical, cognitive and functional assessments, genetic and neuroimaging components will also be incorporated to evaluate the neuro-developmental versus neuro-degenerative hypotheses of schizophrenia. This study is in collaboration with the EASY Team in Kwai Chung Hospital, Hong Kong.


Prof. EYH Chen
Dr. WC Chang
Dr. SKW Chan
Dr. EHM Lee
Dr. Fiona Tam
Dr. Christy Hui

Jockey Club Early Psychosis Project JCEP


The Jockey Club Early Psychosis Project is a large-scale interventional project designed to provide intervention of adult onset psychotic disorders. It provides opportunity to study the effectiveness and health economics of early psychosis intervention using a randomized controlled study design. The project also aims to provide sustained and intensive public awareness and gatekeeper training to facilitate early detection of the disorder. Innovative psychological interventions such as coaching are developed in the project. The project also pilots the extensive use of exercise therapy to improve cognitive function. The initial data from the project has contributed to the development of early intervention services in Hong Kong.



Prof. EYH Chen
Dr. SKW Chan
Dr. EHM Lee
Dr. WC Chang
Dr. Christy Hui