The NIHR BioResource Centre Maudsley at King’s College London leads the Mental Health BioResource, launched in 2018, and focuses on mental health conditions including anxiety, depression and eating disorders via two study groups: the Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) and the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative UK (EDGI UK).
To date, the GLAD study has successfully collected over 47,000 participant questionnaire responses, of which over 33,000 participants have returned their saliva kits. Meanwhile, the EDGI UK study, which was launched shortly before the onset of the pandemic, in February 2020, has over 10,000 consented volunteers, of which almost 5,000 have returned their saliva kits.
Although these numbers are certainly encouraging, the team wanted to investigate the disparity between the proportion of people who submit their questionnaire responses versus those who also return their saliva kit and whether it was due to participants’ suspicions surrounding genetic studies.
To investigate this, two PhD students (Helena Davies and Jessica Mundy) set up the PERPSYCH study, which involved inviting GLAD and EDGI UK participants to complete surveys. They assessed the participants’ existing knowledge of genetics and genomics, belief in genetic or environmental determinism and tested if an educational video could help improve their understanding. The participants were provided with a 3/4-minute video describing the role of genetics in health and then asked to answer a few questions. The study attracted responses from 3,283 participants. Their results are currently being analysed and the findings will be published later this year.
How data from the Mental Health BioResource is being used
The data collected via the GLAD and EDGI questionnaires - from almost 56K participants with >38,000 DNA samples - represents a rich resource for researchers. Each year the Maudsley team receives multiple requests for data access as well as recall of participants. Researchers have investigated topics such as how to predict responses to cognitive behavioural therapy, the overlap between depression and Alzheimer’s disease, the role that probiotics may play in stress, weight loss behaviours in individuals with eating disorders and assessing cognition with the use of online cognitive tasks followed by brain imaging.
Now that all pre-pandemic activities have resumed, the Maudsley team has been busy engaging with their local community, in particular placing efforts on increasing diversity in research participation. In November 2022, they engaged with their local community at Peckham Levels as part of the ‘BRC In the Community’ event hosted by the Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).
Speaking about the event Research Assistant Saakshi Kakar said:
"This was a great opportunity to speak with the black community, one of the most underrepresented groups in research."
In May 2023, the team also interacted with the local community during the King’s College Hospital Clinical Trials Day.
Improving Black Health Outcomes project
Recently, the Maudsley BioResource initiated a project focused entirely on promoting research in black communities by setting up the “Improving Black Health Outcomes” (IBHO) project in close collaboration with the NIHR BioResource. Historically, genetics’ research in the black community has been neglected, therefore the IBHO project hopes to raise the profile of black research as well as black researchers by hiring researchers from the black community. The project aims to recruit 5,000 individuals to the project through this engagement initiative.
Get in touch with the team
If you are a researcher, learn more about using the NIHR BioResource to support your work.
Want to make a difference?
Our volunteers help to advance health research that benefits generations to come. Every volunteer makes a difference.