Stephen Lawrie

Professor Stephen Lawrie is the Head of Psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh and an Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

The Regional Autism Spectrum Disorder Consultancy Service for adults provides diagnosis, assessment, advice and information for people with ASDs. It also provides valuable training for health professionals in South-East Scotland. Professor Lawrie is its medical lead and Head of Psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh.

This is a structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (sMRI) scan of the brain as though looking through a person’s face, on the left and in sagittal section, as though looking from the side, on the right. Some of the structures highlighted especially the hippocampus – illustrated by the arrows in mossy green – are useful in making early diagnoses of schizophrenia and in distinguishing people with schizophrenia from those with other conditions such as autism, depression or bipolar disorder. The overall accuracy of sMRI for an early diagnosis of schizophrenia in our studies now exceeds 90 per cent with pattern classification approaches

I have a long-standing interest in neuroimaging and the treatment of psychosis and autism spectrum disorders. My overarching research goal is to develop tools to provide objective diagnoses and improve the management of these conditions.

I am particularly interested in clinical applications of brain imaging in psychosis and in the development of new treatments that could enhance outcomes in established schizophrenia and even prevent psychosis in high-risk populations. My research primarily involves using structural and functional brain imaging to distinguish patients with schizophrenia from their relatives and other patients with major psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder and ASD. As a means to these ends, I have been involved in several genetic and multi-centre imaging studies. I have been instrumental in setting up multi-centre neuroimaging and clinical trials networks for psychosis researchers in the UK. These same approaches could be applied to help expand existing imaging and trial networks for autism spectrum disorders and facilitate the development of biomarkers and interventions for autism and related conditions.

Another key part of our endeavor is our work with the Regional Autism Spectrum Disorder Consultancy Service (RASDCS). At any one time it helps around 30 people at various stages of assessment. We offer post-diagnostic support as well as ongoing management to doctors who refer patients to be diagnosed.

Since the service started, we have seen around 1000 people and many of these have not only been given crucial help but have gone on to work with us in various research studies. The RASDCS also works closely with Number 6 One Stop Shop, a service for those aged 16 and over with High Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger Syndrome (AS) who live in the Lothians and the Borders.


Full Profile