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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Neurodiversity and mental health

Research environment

The School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences at Queen Mary is one of the UK’s elite research centres, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). We offer a multi-disciplinary research environment and have approximately 150 PhD students working on projects in the biological and psychological sciences. Our students have access to a variety of research facilities supported by experienced staff, as well as a range of student support services.

Training and development

Our PhD students become part of Queen Mary’s Doctoral College which provides training and development opportunities, advice on funding, and financial support for research. Our students also have access to a Researcher Development Programme designed to help recognise and develop key skills and attributes needed to effectively manage research, and to prepare and plan for the next stages of their career.

Project details

Adolescence is a period of dramatic physical and cognitive change, but is also marked by substantial variability in mental health across individuals. For example, while many adolescents sail through adolescence without significant difficulties, approximately a third will experience clinical levels of depression and/or anxiety. Risk for these conditions is particularly high in adolescents with one or more forms of neurodiversity (e.g., neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD or autism), leading to negative impact across many areas of life. Understanding the risk factors that contribute to these different outcomes in adolescence may inform new approaches to detect neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions early during development, as well as to promote positive mental health and wellbeing.

Available projects may focus on:

  1. Understanding why youth with ADHD are at high risk for developing depression and suicidality during adolescence and young adulthood. This project will use extensive clinical, cognitive and electroencephalography (EEG) data from adolescents and young adults with and without childhood ADHD who completed the same assessments when they were children. The goal is to inform future research on the efficacy of prevention strategies to reduce the impact of ADHD and co-occurring depression and suicidality in youth.
  2. Identifying biological and psychosocial processes that increase risk for mood and anxiety problems in adolescents, in order to enhance future prevention and early identification. This project will use large existing samples with rich repeated assessments spanning clinical symptoms and diagnoses, genetics, brain activity (EEG), cognition, life stress, family and peer relationships, and the school environment.
  3. Improving approaches to detect neurodevelopmental conditions and their comorbidities using trans-diagnostic dimensional models of psychopathology (e.g., Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology, Research Domain Criteria). The aim is to provide a framework to study, detect and treat mental health conditions in people with various neurodevelopmental conditions, as well as to identify shared biological and psychosocial processes underlying their co-occurrence. Newly collected and existing data from multiple samples of children and adolescents will be used.

Eligibility and applying

Applications are invited from outstanding candidates with a first or upper-second class honours degree (or equivalent qualification) and a Master's degree in an area relevant to this multi-disciplinary project, including but not limited to psychiatry, psychology and neuroscience.

Applicants from outside of the UK are required to provide evidence of their English language ability. Please see our English language requirements page for details.

Informal enquiries can be sent to Dr Giorgia Michelini ( to discuss potential PhD projects and for any further information about research in her lab.

The School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences is committed to promoting diversity in science; we have been awarded an Athena Swan Silver Award. We positively welcome applications from underrepresented groups.


  1. Michelini, G., Palumbo, I. M., DeYoung, C. G., Latzman, R. D., & Kotov, R. (2021). Linking RDoC and HiTOP: A new interface for advancing psychiatric nosology and neuroscience. Clinical psychology review, 86, 102025.

  2. Michelini, G., Perlman, G., Tian, Y., Mackin, D. M., Nelson, B. D., Klein, D. N., & Kotov, R. (2021). Multiple domains of risk factors for first onset of depression in adolescent girls. Journal of affective disorders, 283, 20–29.

  3. Michelini, G., Barch, D. M., Tian, Y., Watson, D., Klein, D. N., & Kotov, R. (2019). Delineating and validating higher-order dimensions of psychopathology in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. Translational psychiatry, 9(1), 261.

  4. Michelini, G., Jurgiel, J., Bakolis, I., Cheung, C., Asherson, P., Loo, S. K., Kuntsi, J., & Mohammad-Rezazadeh, I. (2019). Atypical functional connectivity in adolescents and adults with persistent and remitted ADHD during a cognitive control task. Translational psychiatry, 9(1), 137.

  5. Michelini, G., Kitsune, G. L., Hosang, G. M., Asherson, P., McLoughlin, G., & Kuntsi, J. (2016). Disorder-specific and shared neurophysiological impairments of attention and inhibition in women with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and women with bipolar disorder. Psychological medicine, 46(3), 493–504.

  6. Michelini, G., Eley, T. C., Gregory, A. M., & McAdams, T. A. (2015). Aetiological overlap between anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity symptom dimensions in adolescence. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines, 56(4), 423–431.

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