What are the long-term effect of the drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders and their associated comorbidities on the brain?
In past years, there have been studies that have measured a relationship between the long-term use of medicines used to treat mood disorders, thought processing and changes in the human brain. For example, some researchers have shown that some of the medicines used to treat psychotic episodes alter specific areas in the brain over time and effect an individual's ability to think clearly. Other researchers have combined this information with results from patient blood tests and prescription histories to predict whether patients might suffer from a relapse or experience drug induced side effects.
Unfortunately this research has produced conflicting results, possibly because these studies collect data from relatively small groups of people.
In contrast, the UK Biobank study has used MRI to scan the brain of ~40,000 people on two separate occasions in addition to having access to patient diagnoses, blood tests and the prescription histories of the people with mood disorders in this group. We aim to compare groups of patients and mentally healthy people in this study who have been diagnosed with for example depression or schizophrenia to determine whether specific medicines or groups of medicines alter brain structure and function over time. Using mathematical modelling, we would also like to see if we could use this data to predict whether some patients will suffer from a relapse.
In summary, this complex study could take up to 3 years to investigate the long-term effects of medicines used to treat mental health disorders and directly related illnesses on the structure and function of the brain. The results of this research are likely to be of particular interest to people with mood disorders and there clinicians.