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The William Harvey Research Institute - Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

Dr Livia A Carvalho

Livia A

Lecturer in Neuropsychopharmacology

Centre: Clinical Pharmacology

Telephone: +44(0) 20 7882 2101


Dr. Livia Carvalho is a Lecturer in Translational Pharmacology at the Department of Clinical Pharmacology, William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London. Dr. Carvalho has a BSc in Pharmacology and Toxicology, MRes in Neurosciences, and a PhD in Psychoimmunology. Her current work focuses on understanding how psychoactive drugs affect the human body as a single complex biological system involving a network of interactions. This research is obtained via the use of quantitative statistics techniques and bioinformatics in primary data collection and secondary data analysis of Epidemiological Studies and in other cellular models.

Studies are carried out in human volunteers (UK Biobank, Whitehall II, ELSA, ELSA-Brazil, BRISA Epidemiological cohorts, clinical population among others) and involve a combination of laboratory-based experiments as well as naturalistic measures. Improved understanding of how psychoactive drugs exert their therapeutic benefit via peripheral and central effects is essential for the development of new interventions to treat psychiatric and neurological illnesses. Dr. Carvalho has published several manuscripts in scholarly journals, and book chapters. She is also the recipient of the NARSAD and the ACNP-ECNP Young Investigator Awards.

Membership and awards

Dr. Carvalho has received several prestigious awards including Young Investigator Awards from the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), the European Neuropsychopharmacology Society (ECNP), the British Association for Psychopharmacology Non-clinical Award, and the American Psychosomatic Society. 

Reviewer activities

Reviewer Ad-hoc for the following journals Brain Behaviour and Immunity, Psychoneuroendocrinology, Neuropsychopharmacology, among others.

External reviewer for fellowships, project and programme grant for the FWO Research Foundation, Brussels; ME Research, Dunhill Medical Trust, UK; Economic and Social Research Council, UK, Alzheimer Research Trust; National Institute of Health Research, UK, Medical Research Council, UK. 


Group members

PhD students: Sam Lawes, Gill Weston, Laura Hanns, Ann Liljas and Luis de Souza Teodoro.
MRes student: Thomas Mitchell


Dr Carvalho's research focuses on investigating the biological pathways involved in the role of glucocorticoid hormones and pro-inflammatory cytokines in the biological effects of stress, the pathogenesis of depression, and the molecular mechanisms of antidepressant drugs.

Her projects more specifically revolve around four major themes:

1. The anti-inflammatory and neuroendocrine mechanism of action of antidepressant drugs
2. The antidepressant effect of anti-inflammatory drugs
3. The biological mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of depression in people with inflammatory illnesses
3. Understanding how inflammatory molecules can signal the brain to alter cognitive function, behaviour and mood.

Studies are carried out in human volunteers (epidemiological cohorts, general and clinical populations) and involve a combination of laboratory-based experiments as well as naturalistic measures. Improved understanding of the pathways linking the central nervous and immune systems is essential for the development of new interventions to prevent and treat mental health, as well as the behavioural and depressive symptoms that commonly accompany physical illnesses. It could also influence treatment decisions and provide alternative targets for potential new antidepressant agents.

Key Publications

For a full list of publications click here

  • Souza-Teodoro L.H., de Oliveira C., Walters K, Carvalho L.A. (2016) Higher serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate protects against the onset of depression in the elderly: findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) PNEC 64:40-46.
  • Grosse L1*, Carvalho LA*, Birkenhager TK, Hoogendijk WJ, Kushner SA, Drexhage HA, Bergink V. (2016) Circulating cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells as potential predictors for antidepressant response in melancholic depression. Restoration of T regulatory cell populations after antidepressant therapy. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 233(9): 1679-88. *shared first author.
  • Zalli A, Jovanova O, Hoogendijk WJG, Tiemeier H, Carvalho LA (2016) Low-grade inflammation predicts persistence of depressive symptoms. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 233(9):1669-78.
  • Nikkheslat N, Zunszain PA, Horowitz MA, Barbosa IG, Parker JA, Myint AM, Schwarz MJ, Tylee AT, Carvalho LA, Pariante CM. (2015) Insufficient glucocorticoid signaling and elevated inflammation in coronary heart disease patients with comorbid depression. Brain Behav Immun 48:8-18.
  • Carvalho LA, Urbanova L, Hamer M, Hackett RA, Lazzarino AI, Steptoe A (2015) Blunted glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid sensitivity to stress in people with diabetes. Psychoneuroendocrinology 51: 209-18.
  • Carvalho LA, Bergink V, Sumaski L, Wijkhuijs J, Hoogendijk WJ, Birkenhagen T, Drexhage HA. (2014) Inflammatory activation is associated with a reduced glucocorticoid receptor alpha beta expression ratio in monocytes of inpatients with melancholic major depressive disorder. Translational Psychiatry 14:e344.


Internal: Federica Marelli-Berg (WHRI); Steffen Petersen (WHRI)

External: Glyn Lewis; Golam Khandaker; Ed Bullmore; Milka Kivimaki; Andrew Steptoe


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