​​​Department of Psychiatry

​Research - Research Units 

Schizophrenia Research Unit


This unit conducts research into schizophrenia, particularly early outcomes of psychosis. Projects focus on clinical, pharmacological, cognitive, n​euroimaging and pharmacogenetic aspects of the illness.

A selection of current studies includes:

  1. 2-4 year follow-up studies in over 135 patients to assess the clinical, biological and functional aspects of outcomes in first-episode psychosis
  2. Comparing the acute effects of an atypical vs a conventional antipsychotics on brain structure and function in first-episode psychosis
  3. Comparison of long acting risperidone with flupenthixol decanoate in terms of psychopathology, cognitive function, structural MRI and functional MRI
  4. Assessing the efficacy of Omega-3 fatty acids plus antioxidant for relapse prevention after antipsychotic discontinuation in successfully treated first-episode schizophrenia.

To explore specific research opportunities in this unit, please contact Prof Robin Emsley,  rae@sun.ac.za


Project staff

​​Prof Robin Emsley (MBChB, DCH, FCPsych, MMed (Psych), DMed, DSc) 
Head of Unit
Tel: +27 21 938 9116
Fax: +27 21 938 9738

Dr Riaan Olivier (MA Clin Psych,  PhD (Psych)
Tel: +27 21 938 6289
Ms Freda Scheffler (MA Psychology)
PhD Candidate 
Interest: cannabis use in Schizophrenia 
Tel: +27 21 938 9940
Sr AM Smit (Dip Gen Nursing and Midwifery)
Study Coordinator
Tel: +27 21 910 3605
Prof Laila Asmal (MBChB, FCPsych, MMedPsych, MSc Clinical Epidemiology, PhD)
Senior lecturer/Psychiatrist/Researcher
Interest area: neruo-imagining, clinical outcomes, psychopharmacology.
Tel: +27 21 938 9116

Dr Stefan Du Plessis (MBChB, PhD​)
Interest area: Clinical Neuro-imaging
Tel: +27 21 938 9228
Dr Lebogang Phahladira (MBChB, DMH, FCPsych)
Interest area: longitudinal treatment outcomes in early onset schizophrenia and family support.
Tel: +27 21 370 1153
Dr Sanja Kilian (BA Hons, MA, PhD Psyc)
Postdoctoral Researcher 
Interest area: negative symptoms, social cognition and childhood trauma.
Tel: +27 21 910 3605

Dr N McGregor (Bsc Hons, MSc, PhD Psych)
Interest area: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, Pharmacogenomics and Mental Health
Prof Louise Warnich (BSc Hons, MSc, PhD Genetics)
Dean of Sciences
Interest area: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, Pharmacogenomics and Mental Health
Dr K O'Connell (BSc, BSc Hons, PhD)
Postdoctoral Researcher
Area of interest: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, Pharmacogenomics and Mental Health
Ms. E Ovenden (BSc, BSc Hons, MSc)
PhD student
Project: Functional characterisation of core folate metabolism genes implicated in antipsychotic treatment response in a South African first episode schizophrenia cohort

Mr R Moholisa (BSc Hons, MSc)

Interest area: biostatistics