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Michael O'Donovan

Deputy Director, Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, Cardiff University

Genetic variation makes important contributions to the aetiology of all major psychiatric disorders. Recent advances in molecular genetic technology offer unprecedented opportunities to identify specific risk genes for these disorders, and to use these findings as the basis for understanding the molecular basis of these hitherto enigmatic disorders. I am interested in identifying genes that contribute to susceptibility to a wide range of psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease, and exploiting to findings to understanding the pathophysiological processes by which susceptibility is conferred.

After obtaining my undergraduate qualifications in Physiology (BSc) and Medicine (MBChB) at the University of Glasgow, I specialized in psychiatry. I began my research career in 1989 as an MRC Training Fellow when I developed novel methods for quantitating mRNA, used these to show alterations in the relative expression of genes encoding subunits of GABAA receptors was a mechanism that contributes the biology of benzodiazepine tolerance, and obtained a PhD in Molecular Pharmacology.

From 1992-1993, I was an MRC Travelling Fellow at MIT where I was a member of The Huntington's Disease Collaborative Research Group, a team of scientists from leading genetics institutions in Europe and the USA that identified the gene causing Huntington's disease. In 1993, I was appointed Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Wales College of Medicine, and was awarded a personal chair in Psychiatric Genetics in 1999.

I have a broad interest in the molecular genetics and neurobiology of mental disorders and hold grants from major funding bodies (MRC, Wellcome Trust, National Institutes of Health (USA), and the European Union for molecular genetic studies of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dyslexia, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease.


  • –present
    Deputy Director, Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, Cardiff University