Psychiatric disorders (e.g. depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) are common conditions that are associated with extreme emotional burden, both for affected individuals and their families. Psychiatric disorders are complex conditions that arise as a result of combinations of genetic and environmental vulnerability factors. The genetics of psychiatric disorders is especially complex, so our understanding has been slow in coming despite application of state-of-the-art tools and a large number of studies over many years. Although both molecular genetic research in psychiatry and clinical applications of genetics in many other medical disciplines are well established, research involving clinical applications of genetics in psychiatric conditions is still emerging. However, progress is now being made, and there is an urgent need to translate this into benefit for individuals with psychiatric disorders and their families.
The overall objective of my program of research is to use a clinical genetics perspective to inform the development of novel biological and non-biological interventions to improve outcomes for individuals with psychiatric disorders and to support their families.
I am particularly interested in:
• Improving outcomes for people with mental illness and their families by helping them to better understand the causes of mental illness.
• Contributing to a better understanding of factors that contribute to the development of postpartum depression, and developing new nutritional interventions to reduce women's risk for postpartum depression.
• Modifying healthcare professionals attitudes towards individuals with mental illness.
Austin J, and Honer W. Potential impact of genetic counselling for mental illness. Clinical Genetics.2005 67 (2) p134-142.
Austin J, Smith G.N., and Honer W. The genomic era and families' perceptions of psychotic disorders: Genetic risk estimation, associations with reproductive decisions and views about predictive testing. American Journal of Medical Genetics: Neuropsychiatric Genetics 2006. 141(8) p926-928
Austin J. and Peay, H.L. Applications and Limitations of Empiric Data in Provision of Recurrence Risks for Schizophrenia: A practical review for healthcare professionals providing clinical psychiatric genetics consultations. Clinical Genetics 2006. 70 (3) p177- 187
Austin JC, and Honer WG. The genomic era and serious mental illness: a potential application for psychiatric genetic counseling. Psychiatric Services 2007. 58(2) p254-261
Peay HL, Palmer C, Sheidley B, McCarthy Veach P, Gettig B, Austin JC. Psychiatric disorders in clinical genetics I: Assessing family histories of psychiatric disorders. Journal of Genetic Counseling 2008 17(1) p6-17.
Austin JC, Palmer C, Sheidley B, McCarthy Veach P, Gettig B, Peay HL. Psychiatric disorders in clinical genetics II: Individualizing recurrence risks for psychiatric disorders. Journal of Genetic Counseling 2008 17(1) p18-29.
Austin JC, and Honer WG. Psychiatric genetic counseling for parents of individuals with psychotic disorders: a pilot study. Early Intervention in Psychiatry 2008 2 p80-89.
Hippman C, Oberlander T, Honer WG, Misri S, Austin JC. Depression during pregnancy: the impact on maternal mood of increased risk for fetal aneuploidy. Clinical Genetics 2009 75 p30-36.
Monaco L, Conway L, Valverde K, and Austin JC. Genetic counselors' perceptions and practices relating to schizophrenia. Public Health Genomics. 2010 13: 21-26.
Hunter, MJ, Hippman, C, Honer, WG, Austin JC. Genetic counseling for schizophrenia: trends in referrals to a catchment area medical genetics program over 40 years (1968- 2007). American Journal of Medical Genetics, 2010 152A: 147-152.
Austin, J.C. Re-conceptualizing risk in genetic counseling: implications for clinical practice. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 2010, 19(3): 228-34.
Feret, H, Conway, L, Austin JC. Genetic Counselors' attitudes towards individuals with schizophrenia: desire for social distance and endorsement of stereotypes. In press Patient Education and Counseling
Devlin AM, Brain U, Austin JC, Oberlander TF. Maternal MTHFR C677T genotype & depressed mood during pregnancy affects SLC6A4 methylation in infants at birth PLOS 1 2010, 5(8):e12201
Feret H, Conway L, Austin JC. Genetic Counselors' attitudes towards individuals with schizophrenia: desire for social distance and endorsement of stereotypes. Patient Education and Counseling 2011 82: 69-73
McBride R, Austin JC. Sex testing or gender verification: is there a difference and does it matter? Journal of Genetic Counseling, 2011 20:113-114
Zierhut H, Austin JC. How inclusion of genetic counselors on the research team can benefit translational science. Science Translational Medicine. 2011, 3(75): 75-76.
Chan RCK. Austin JC*, Pearson VJ, Gong Q, Honer WG. Translating genomic research into care for people with schizophrenia in China. Schizophrenia Research, 2011, 131:31-34
Anderson K., Austin JC. Influencing genetic counselors' attitudes towards people with mental illness: a pilot study. Journal of Genetic Counseling. 2012, 21: 573-81.
Hippman C., Inglis, A., Austin JC. What is a "balanced" description? Insight from parents of individuals with Down syndrome. Journal of Genetic Counseling. 2012, 21(1):35-44
Lautenbach, D., Hiraki, S., Whalen Campion, M., Austin, J.C. Mothers' perspectives on their child's mental illness as compared to other complex disorders in their family: insights to inform genetic counseling practice. Journal of Genetic Counseling. 2012, 21: 564-72.
Inglis A, Hippman C., Austin JC. Prenatal testing for Down Syndrome: Perspectives of parents of affected individuals. American Journal of Medical Genetics 2012, 158A (4), 743-50.
Austin JC, Hippman, C, and Honer, WG. Descriptive and numeric estimation of risk for psychotic disorders among affected individuals and relatives: implications for clinical practice. Psychiatric Research 2012, 196(1) 52-6.
Research Scientist, BC Mental Health and Addictions Research Institute, Vancouver.
Centre Investigator, Brain Research Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.