Brain Sciences


Mental health

Our research into mental health combines initiatives between basic neuroscience, clinical and epidemiological psychiatry and clinical psychology to address the global challenges of mental health problems.

We take a ‘lifespan approach’ to mental health, addressing social and health inequalities from the cradle to the grave. Our academics have forged strong partnerships with the NHS, national government and the third sector to ensure we are connected to primary and social care communities in the UK. With most of our leading experts undertaking dual appointments as UCL researchers and NHS clinicians, we are working on the front-line, ensuring our research and education has patient outcomes at its heart. 

Mental health and illness

The overarching aims of our research on mental health and illness is to address clinical problems in order to achieve benefits for patients and public health, using insights from basic science. This research is organised into the following areas:

  • old age psychiatry;
  • neuroscience and mental health;
  • epidemiology and applied clinical research;
  • palliative care.
Clinical, educational and health psychology

Research in the areas of clinical, educational and health psychology has a strong focus on understanding the causes of and mechanisms that underlie mental disorders, behavioural problems, and educational difficulties. This is complemented by a major objective to develop and evaluate innovative interventions.

The increasing focus on the mental health problems of children and young people will be a key focus over the next period, strengthened by the link with the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families. The development and evaluation of novel interventions (including digital interventions) in mental health in adults, neurodevelopmental disorders, psycho-pharmacology and older people remain key priority areas and will be enhanced by the development of the Institute of Mental Health and continuing cross-Faculty and cross-institutional links with experts in psychiatry, human-computer interaction, cognitive neuroscience and education.

Human neuroimaging and cognitive neuroscience

The interdisciplinary research strategy of our significant research capacity in human neuroimaging and cognitive neuroscience is to study how the human brain generates behaviour, thoughts and feelings and how these processes break down in neurological and psychiatric disorders, combining cognitive psychology, computational neuroscience, anatomical and functional neuroimaging and neuropsychology.

Institute of Mental Health

Following the successful launch of the UCL Mental Health strategy, the establishment of our flagship Institute of Mental Health (IoMH) in 2019 will ensure direct and rapid access to UCL’s diverse expertise across myriad fields.

Investment in the facility will be matched to funding from research and capital development grants from a range of partners, including the NHS. This investment will enable the Institute to take advantage of current and emerging best practice in mental health research facilities and digital education, with leading-edge technologies in neurophysiology, molecular genetics and multimodal imaging to push the boundaries of mental health research and deliver breakthrough treatments to the front line.

The IoMH aims to translate work on basic mechanisms of cognition at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience into benefits to mental health. These developments put us in a strong position to compete for new funding ring-fenced for mental health research. Implementation of the strategy will strengthen UCL’s mental health research community and outward presence, with a particular focus on supporting novel cross-disciplinary activities capitalising on UCL’s unique strengths in mechanistic and population health.

There is ongoing discussion with Camden & Islington NHS FT regarding the redevelopment of the St Pancras Hospital site. A number of productive workshops have taken place with UCL and C&I staff and a shared vision and list of principles have been agreed. The objectives include: enhancing translational research through closer working and co-location of UCL clinical academics and NHS clinical activity where mutually beneficial; scoping a MH specialist Clinical Research Facility; provision of a joint education space for training and research. 

Our new Wellcome Trust PhD scheme in MH Science has £6M funding over five years and offers 25-20 studentships.
Max Planck-UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing

The Max Planck-UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing, a £6M joint investment between UCL and the Max Planck Society, opened in 2014. The Centre award was renewed 2019-24 (£2.5M) and it also has an industrial agreement with Telefonica (£1.6M) to develop app-based tools for early detection and monitoring of depression and anxiety. Its scientific goal is to study the causes of psychiatric disorders and individual differences in cognitive development, with an emphasis on adulthood and old age.