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This video shows an interview conducted by Prof Andrea Cipriani.

Philip Cowen

Professor of Psychopharmacology

I trained in medicine at University College Hospital, London, and then in psychiatry at King’s College Hospital.  I then came to Oxford to work in the MRC Unit of Clinical Pharmacology under David Grahame-Smith. In his laboratory I studied the basic neuropharmacology of serotonin and  its application to clinical psychopharmacology.  Since 1983 I have been MRC Clinical Scientist and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry in Oxford.  I was elected to a personal chair in Psychopharmacology at the University of Oxford in 1997 and to a Fellowship of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences in 2001. I received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Association of Psychopharmacology in 2014. My main interests are in the biochemistry and treatment of mood disorders, particularly the pharmacological management of resistant depression. I am senior author of the Shorter Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry (most recent edition, 2017).

My Research

My research focuses on the psychopharmacology of depression. I am interested in the biochemical changes that are associated with depression and how drugs work to alleviate the symptoms that depressed patients experience.  

Clinical depression is an important public health problem and one of the leading contributors to the global burden of disease. Current treatments, although  very helpful, are not effective for an important minority of patients, particularly those referred to mental health services. The rate of discovery of new drug treatments for depression is low partly because our knowledge of the underlying neurobiology is limited.

My group uses a variety of brain imaging methods as well neuropsychological technigues to clarify the brain changes in depression. We also study the effects of psychotropic drugs in these models. We study people who are acutely unwell as well as those at risk of depression because, for example, they have a previous history of the illness or a family history of mood disorder. In the latter respect much of our current work focuses on identifying neurobiological risk factors for young people at risk of depression in the hope of finding simple interventions to help prevent the onset of depression.