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​​​​Department of Psychiatry

​Research - Research Units ​

The South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chair in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Chair overview

The South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) is a flagship programme of the National Research Foundation (NRF) and is supported by the Department of Science and Technology and the NRF. The SARChI Chair in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was awarded to Professor Soraya Seedat in 2007 and initiated in January 2008. PTSD is a severe, chronic and debilitating psychiatric disorder that occurs after exposure to extremely traumatic events and significantly impairs normal functioning and quality of life. Since its inception, the program has attracted a steady flow of both laboratory and clinically geared students and staff at honours, masters, doctoral and postdoctoral levels.

The SARChI Chair in PTSD has a strong gene-brain-behaviour research focus (animal and human). Our human genetics research group aims to identify genetic factors that play a role in increasing or decreasing individual risk for PTSD by applying a three-pronged approach, which involves conducting gene expression and epigenetic analyses, as well as protein-protein interaction analyses. Projects in this regard include investigation of the effects of exercise on memory deficits brought on by stress, investigating the therapeutic effects of D-Cycloserine on fear extinction in an animal model for PTSD, and identification of ligands of proteins that are known to be involved in PTSD (e.g. wolframin). Projects within the clinical domain span a wide spectrum and include investigation of the psychopathological, neurocognitive, and imaging aspects of PTSD in the context of adolescent trauma, HIV, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, among others.​


Projects Underway

A selection of research projects currently underway are listed below. 

For more detailed information about any of these/other projects, please contact

The Chair, Prof. Soraya Seedat,; or

The administrative officer, Vanessa Jones, +27 21 938 9784


  1. The viability of delivering a low-cost sleep intervention programme, called the Transdiagnostic Sleep and Circadian Intervention (TranS-C-Youth), to improve sleep and symptoms of PTSD in adolescents.
  2. Effects of alcohol abuse on the brain in the context of earlier ART initiation among HIV infected individuals
  3. The role of non-coding RNAs in fear extinction.
  4. Insights from the microbiome in understanding the shared roots of neuropsychiatric disorders and modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease
  5. Association between motor cognition and treatment outcomes in patients with alcohol- and/or cocaine addiction in a rehabilitation programme
  6. Hormones in hair as possible predictive biomarkers of posttraumatic stress disorder in women who have been raped
  7. Relationship between childhood trauma, neuropsychological deficits, neural circuitry, and anxiety proneness in high-anxiety prone and low-anxiety prone adolescents
  8. Effectiveness of prolonged exposure for adolescents with PTSD as administered by counsellors: Comparative trial of supportive counselling
  9. Relationships between anxiety, childhood trauma, resilience and physiological determinants of health, both centrally and peripherally, in adolescents
  10. Understanding and treating trauma and violence-related pathologies in South African Townships: Emergence and modifiability of epigenetic and neural memories of traumatic stressors and appetitive offending
  11. A comparison of neuropsychological functioning and structured MRI in traumatised adolescents with and without PTSD
  12. A phase IIb randomised placebo-controlled trial of zinc and vitamins A&D in HIV positive patients with early Clade C associated neurocognitive impairment on stable antiretroviral treatment


SARChI Members


Prof​ Soraya Seedat
Vanessa Jones
Programme Administrator

Fatima Ahmed
Research Assistant
​Alberte van der Watt
Research Assistant
Sr Leticia Hintsho 
Research Nurse

Bulelwa Zibi
Junior Technical Assistant​
​Prof Sian Hemmings
Group head: Neuropsychiatric Genetics

Dr Jacqui Womersley
Research Scientist

Dr ​Georgina Spies
Research Scientist ​

​​Prof Helena Kuivaniemi
Research Scientist

Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr Jani Nothling

Dr Susanne Young
​Dr Patricia Swart
Postgraduate students 

Morné​ du Plessis
Jaiyeola Kajero
Natasha Kitchin
​Catherine Nabbumba
​Bibilola Oladeji
​Carlien Rust
​Anne Stevenson
​Eileen Thomas-Vuong
​Tanya van Aswegen
​Alberta van der Watt
​Simonne Wright
​Lianna Kapp
​Catherine Lohrentz
​Kabelo Maloka
​Lauren Martin
​Michaela O'Hare
​​Danielle Janse van Rensburg