Carvalho, Livia A.

Lecturer in Neuropsychopharmacology

Livia obtained a BSc in Pharmacology and Biochemistry, MSc in Neurosciences, and PhD in Pharmacology from University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 2005, she worked as a Postdoctoral Researcher with Prof. Carmine Pariante at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neurosciences, KCL before moving to the Psychobiology Group at University College London with Prof. Andrew Steptoe. Dr. Carvalho became a lecturer at the William Harvey Research Institute in 2016. She also holds an Honorary Senior Lecturer Post at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL.

Most of her publications include investigations on the cellular and molecular aspects involved on the dysregulation of the immune system in patients with mental illnesses, in the absence or presence of physical diseases. She is particularly interested in the antidepressant effect of anti-inflammatory drugs, and in the inflammatory-related mechanisms of action of antidepressants. This translational approach involves a combination of laboratory-based experiments and naturalistic measures in human subjects (heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis or depressed patients) as well as in primary human cells. 

Summary of Research

Dr Carvalho's research focuses on investigating the biological pathways involved in the role of glucocorticoid hormones and pro-inflammatory cytokines in the biological effects of stress, the pathogenesis of depression, and the molecular mechanisms of antidepressant drugs.

Her projects more specifically revolve around four major themes:

1. The anti-inflammatory and neuroendocrine mechanism of action of antidepressant drugs
2. The antidepressant effect of anti-inflammatory drugs
3. The biological mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of depression in people with inflammatory illnesses
3. Understanding how inflammatory molecules can signal the brain to alter cognitive function, behaviour and mood.

Studies are carried out in human volunteers (epidemiological cohorts, general and clinical populations) and involve a combination of laboratory-based experiments as well as naturalistic measures. Improved understanding of the pathways linking the central nervous and immune systems is essential for the development of new interventions to prevent and treat mental health, as well as the behavioural and depressive symptoms that commonly accompany physical illnesses. It could also influence treatment decisions and provide alternative targets for potential new antidepressant agents.


Model for the effects of antidepressants.LC

Theoretical framework motivating our studies. Successful amelioration of depression is associated to correction of neuroendocrine disturbances. Clinical non-responsiveness to antidepressants is reflected in an inability of antidepressants to exert potent anti-inflammatory effects.


Dr Carvalho has received several prestigious awards including Young Investigator Awards from the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), the European Neuropsychopharmacology Society (ECNP), the British Association for Psychopharmacology Non-clinical Award, and the American Psychosomatic Society. 

Teaching Activities

Livia Co-leads the module “Clinical Trials and Regulatory Affairs with DrPatricia McGettigan and Prof. Steffen Petersen; whilst also contributing to the teaching of other modules within the SMD. Livia is an academic advisor for several students on the BScPhIT course, and a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  Livia is an academic advisor for several students on the BScPhIT course, and a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

As a supervisor, she has mentored the following research staff and projects:

  • 3 PhD students to completion (Naghmeh Nikkheslat 2011-2014, Daisy Fancourt 2012-2015, Amy Ronaldson 2013-2016);
  • 5 PhD students currently working to completion (Laura Hanns, Ann Liljn finishing 2017); Gill Weston (part time, 2018); Sam Lawes (2018) and 1 MRes student Thomas Mitchell
  • 2 postdocs Kenia Baiochi (2015); Joshua Bell (2015-2016)
  • 10 MSc students, 3 final year medical students, 2 Erasmus students from Spain

Reviewer Activities

Reviewer Ad-hoc for the following journals Brain Behaviour and Immunity, Psychoneuroendocrinology, Neuropsychopharmacology, among others.

External reviewer for fellowships, project and programme grant for the FWO Research Foundation, Brussels; ME Research, Dunhill Medical Trust, UK; Economic and Social Research Council, UK, Alzheimer Research Trust; National Institute of Health Research, UK, Medical Research Council, UK.


Members of the Group

PhD students: Sam Lawes, Gill Weston, Laura Hanns, Ann Liljas, Luis de Souza Teodoro
MRes student: Thomas Mitchell

Key Publications

For a full list of publications click here.

Souza-Teodoro L.H., de Oliveira C., Walters K, Carvalho L.A. (2016) Higher serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate protects against the onset of depression in the elderly: findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) PNEC 64:40-46.

Grosse L1*, Carvalho LA*, Birkenhager TK, Hoogendijk WJ, Kushner SA, Drexhage HA, Bergink V. (2016) Circulating cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells as potential predictors for antidepressant response in melancholic depression. Restoration of T regulatory cell populations after antidepressant therapy. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 233(9): 1679-88. *shared first author.

Zalli A, Jovanova O, Hoogendijk WJG, Tiemeier H, Carvalho LA (2016) Low-grade inflammation predicts persistence of depressive symptoms. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 233(9):1669-78.

Nikkheslat N, Zunszain PA, Horowitz MA, Barbosa IG, Parker JA, Myint AM, Schwarz MJ, Tylee AT, Carvalho LA, Pariante CM. (2015) Insufficient glucocorticoid signaling and elevated inflammation in coronary heart disease patients with comorbid depression. Brain Behav Immun 48:8-18.

Carvalho LA, Urbanova L, Hamer M, Hackett RA, Lazzarino AI, Steptoe A (2015) Blunted glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid sensitivity to stress in people with diabetes. Psychoneuroendocrinology 51: 209-18.

Carvalho LA, Bergink V, Sumaski L, Wijkhuijs J, Hoogendijk WJ, Birkenhagen T, Drexhage HA. (2014) Inflammatory activation is associated with a reduced glucocorticoid receptor alpha beta expression ratio in monocytes of inpatients with melancholic major depressive disorder. Translational Psychiatry 14:e344.

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