John Potokar, MBChB MRCPsych MD

Consultant Senior Lecturer, University of Bristol

Dr John Potokar is a Senior Lecturer/Undergraduate Lead in Psychiatry at the University of Bristol. His research reflects his clinical practice as a consultant in general hospital psychiatry at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. Mood disorders are much more prevalent in this population for a range of reasons. An intriguing example of the mind/brain/body interface is hepatitis c, which is frequently acquired through intravenous drug use. In some cases this behaviour (drug taking) is initiated in an attempt to damp down overwhelming emotional symptoms that reflect early adversity. The virus itself can be associated with negative mood symptoms, but this is greatly magnified by the treatment previously given for the condition - interferon. This pro-inflamatory cytokine effects serotonin function, and we know from ours and others work that this neurotransmitter is important in maintaining therapeutic response to ssri antidepressants - perturbing it can lead to relapse acutely; further patients with hep C who develop these mood symptoms (sickness behaviour or depression) respond to antidepressants. We have studied this fascinating area, which encompasses neurosciences, psychopharmacology, psychology, and even anthropology. Insomnia can also effect inflammatory drive and patients with chronic inflammatory conditions with additional sleep disturbance may experience double jeopardy, with untreated insomnia excacerbating their underlying condition. Ultimately we hope that exploration of these areas will provide insights that will not only help our patients who suffer, but also help elucidate the mechanisms behind and reasons underpinning the behavioural responses we call depression.