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Schizophrenia Research Forum: Researcher Profile - Jonathan Burns
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Researcher Profile - Jonathan Burns

First Name:Jonathan
Last Name:Burns
Advanced Degrees:FCPsych(SA); MSc(Edin)
Affiliation:Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Department:Department of Psychiatry
Street Address 1:Dept of Psychiatry, NRMSM
Zip/Postal Code:4000
Country/Territory:South Africa
Email Address:
(view policy) 
Member reports no financial or other potential conflicts of interest. [Last Modified: 17 May 2006]
View all comments by Jonathan Burns
Clinical Interests:
Psychology, Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder
Research Focus:
Brain imaging, Neurodevelopment, Phenomenology/diagnosis, Animal models, Neuroanatomy/Systems Neuroscience, Neuropathology, Epidemiology, Genetics
Work Sector(s):
University, Medical hospital
Reasearcher Bio
MRC Research Fellow 2001/2 for Prof Eve Johnstone, University of Edinburgh, conducted DTI in schiz research and worked on High Risk study.

Ongoing research on evolutionary origins of psychosis and the social brain.

Top Papers
Burns, J.K. (2004) An evolutionary theory of schizophrenia: cortical connectivity, metarepresentation and the social brain. Behavioural and Brain Science Vol 27 (6): 831-55.

Burns, J.K. (2004) Elaborating the social brain hypothesis of schizophrenia. Behavioral and Brain Science Vol 27 (6): 68-86.

Burns J., Job D., Bastin M.E., Whalley H., MacGillivray T., Johnstone E.C., Lawrie S.M. (2003) Structural disconnectivity in schizophrenia: a diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging study. The British Journal of Psychiatry 182: 439-443.

Burns, J.K. (2006) The social brain hypothesis of schizophrenia. World Psychiatry (In press).

Burns, J.K. (2006) Schizophrenia and brain evolution – Integrating the evidence. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry (In press).

Burns, J.K. (2006) Neuronal Networks – evolutionary origins, developmental aberrations and psychopathology. In: F. Columbus (Ed.): New Research on Neuronal Networks Nova Science Publishers (In press).

McIntosh A.M., Holmes S., Gleeson S., Burns J.K., Hodges A.K., Byrne M.J., Dobbie R., Miller P., Lawrie S.M. and Johnstone E.C. (2002). Maternal recall bias, obstetric history and schizophrenia. The British Journal of Psychiatry 181: 520-525.

Marjoram, D., Gardner, C., Burns, J., Miller, P., Lawrie, S.M. & Johnstone, E.C. (2005) Symptomatology and social inference: A theory of mind study of schizophrenia and psychotic affective disorder. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry 10 (5) 347-59.

Burns, J. (2003)Book review: ‘The Speciation of Modern Homo sapiens’, Edited by Tim Crow, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002. In: The British Journal of Psychiatry 183: 82.

Burns, J. Book review: ‘The Social Brain: Evolution and Pathology’, Edited by Martin Brüne, Hedda Ribbert and Wulf Schiefenhövel, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester, 2003. In: The Human Ethology Bulletin (In press).
What are the top three papers (not yours) you have read recently?
Saha, S., Chant, D., Welham, J. and McGrath, J. (2005) A systmatic review of the prevalence of schizophrenia. PLoS Med 2(5): e141.

Kelly, B.D. (2005) Structural violence and schizophrenia. Social Science and Medicine 61: 721-30.

Arbib, M.A. and Mundhenk, T.N. (2005) Schizophrenia and the mirror system: an essay. Neuropsychologia 43: 268-80.
If resources were not limited, what research projects would you pursue?
Large epidemiological study of schizophrenia (preferably first-episode) in South Africa. I would want to look at socio-economic demographics as well as specific symptomatology in this 3rd world context. I would also like to follow a cohort of 1st episodes to determine course and outcome in this 3rd world context.

A collaboration with one or more other centres (possibly also 3rd world), following parallel study designs, would be highly desirable.
What is your leading hypothesis?
I believe that the prevalence, course and outcome varies according to socioeconomic context. The obvious genetic basis to schizophrenia is expressed to a greater or lessor extent according to factors such as poverty, social deprivation and alienation. Schizophrenia is a disorder of social brain functioning, therefore social hardships worsen the expression of the disease and worsen outcome.
What piece of missing evidence would help prove it?
Large population studies comparing prevalence, symtomatology, course and outcome that show:

a) that higher prevalence is associated with higher poverty markers, lower social capital and measures of greater social alienation.

b) Better course and outcome is associated with less deprivation, greater social capital and greater social inclusion.
What is your fallback position?
The heterogenous nature of this disorder means that we may never really unravel all the factors that mediate expression, course and outcome!

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