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Finding the link between neuronal plasticity and schizophrenia

Nerve cell

Nicholas Clifton's research compares the mechanisms involved in learning and memory to those involved in the development of schizophrenia.


Schizophrenia is a disorder characterised by delusions, paranoia and hallucinations. The disorder is highly heritable, meaning that a large part of the cause of schizophrenia is attributable to the genes inherited from one's parents.

Establishing which genes lead to the development of schizophrenia is a major goal for psychiatric research. Already, genome-wide association studies have identified several groups of genes that increase an individual's chance of acquiring schizophrenia.

These studies suggest that those genes linked to the development of schizophrenia may also be involved in cellular processes of learning and memory, known as neuronal plasticity.

Research approach

We follow the activity of proteins that have been linked to schizophrenia during processes of learning and memory, in areas of the brain responsible for the storage and retrieval of memories. By studying the complex molecular mechanisms underlying various stages of learning and memory, we hope to piece together the systems that are similarly involved in the manifestation of schizophrenia.

Proposed outcome

This work will provide insight into mechanisms of neuronal plasticity that may also be involved in schizophrenia and has the potential to inform future therapies.


Dr Nicholas Clifton

Dr Nicholas Clifton

Research Fellow, NMHRI

+44 (0)29 2068 8337