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Dr. Clare Beasley

Investigator, BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services Research Institute

Primary research areas 

  • Mood disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Inflammation
  • White matter
  • Antipsychotics

About Clare L. Beasley, Ph.D.

  • Investigator, BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services Research Institute
  • Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute
  • Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia 
  • Member, Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health

Dr. Clare Beasley studied in the United Kingdom. During her undergraduate degree, she had the opportunity to complete an honours project in a lab studying Alzheimer’s disease, which resulted in a neuropathology focus. She earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Sheffield, with postdoctoral training in neuropathology at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. 

In 2007, Dr. Beasley became an assistant professor at UBC. In 2015, she was promoted to associate professor. She has received the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Michael Smith New Investigator Award for Research in Schizophrenia and a Brain and Behavior Research Foundation Independent Investigator Award. In addition to her role as a researcher, Dr. Beasley is involved in medical education as psychiatry system lead in the UBC undergraduate medical program and as a mentor. She is a member of the Canadian Network for Research in Schizophrenia and Psychoses.

Current projects 

“The biological basis of mental illness is not fully understood,” says Dr. Beasley. “The main aim of my laboratory is to identify changes in the structure and function of the brain in mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder. In particular, we are interested in identifying whether certain types of brain cells may not normally be functioning in people experiencing these disorders.”

Dr. Beasley’s current projects include an investigation of the role of the immune system in psychiatric disorders. “There’s quite a lot of evidence that the immune system impacts how we behave,” Dr. Beasley says. “If you think about when you have an infection, like the flu, you don’t want to get out of bed, you don’t want to eat, it’s hard to think straight. That has led us to study whether the immune system plays a role in mental illness.”

To explore the immune system, Dr. Beasley and her team study brain tissue donated by deceased patients who experienced a psychiatric disorder. The study examines whether the function of microglia, or brain cells that are involved in the immune response, is altered in mental illness. “One challenge is that we can only do these studies in brain tissue from deceased patients, so more recently we have been looking at whether we can use blood or saliva samples as a proxy to examine the immune response in the brain. We are also interested in understanding how psychiatric medications might impact the immune system.”

Another project centres on how brain cells connect with each other. In particular, Dr. Beasley and her team are investigating white matter, or deep brain tissue containing the nerve fibres that connect different regions of the brain. In looking at white matter tissue from deceased patients, they hope to identify cellular and molecular changes associated with psychiatric disorders.

Dr. Beasley’s research could have future implications for the treatment of mental illness. “The overarching goal of our work is to identify the causes underlying mental illness, which could ultimately lead to the development of improved medications, or the ability to better identify which treatments would be most beneficial for an individual patient.”

Recent publications

See Dr. Clare Beasley's publications on ORCID

Goghari VM, Kusi M, Shakeel MK, Beasley C, David S, Leemans A, De Luca A, Emsell L. Diffusion kurtosis imaging of white matter in bipolar disorder.  doi:10.1101/2021.02.01.21250951. PPR:PPR277555

Sarah L. Hill, Li Shao & Clare L. Beasley (2020) Diminished levels of the chemokine fractalkine in post-mortem prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia but not bipolar disorder, The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, DOI: 10.1080/15622975.2020.1755451

Clare L. Beasley, William G. Honer, Alfredo Ramos-Miguel, Fidel Vila-Rodriguez, Alasdair M. Barr, Prefrontal fatty acid composition in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: Association with reelin expression, Schizophrenia Research, Volume 215, 2020, Pages 493-498, ISSN 0920-9964, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.schres.2017.05.033

Sanjoy Ghosh, Roger A. Dyer, Clare L. Beasley, Evidence for altered cell membrane lipid composition in postmortem prefrontal white matter in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, Journal of Psychiatric Research, Volume 95, 2017, Pages 135-142, ISSN 0022-3956, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.08.009

Davide Amato, Clare L. Beasley, Margaret K. Hahn, Anthony C. Vernon, Neuroadaptations to antipsychotic drugs: Insights from pre-clinical and human post-mortem studies, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Volume 76, Part B, 2017, Pages 317-335, ISSN 0149-7634, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.10.004

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