Professor Cynthia Fu


Department of Psychological Sciences , School of Psychology

Professor Cynthia Fu investigates the brain regions affected by depression and how they may change with different therapies, such as talking therapies, antidepressant medication and neurostimulation.  From this work, she has been studying how we can develop biomarkers to aid in diagnosis and to predict treatment response as well as how we can help to prevent the development of depression. 

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Cynthia and her team have been studying the brain regions affected by depression and how they can change with treatment, revealing that there are common as well as distinct effects of antidepressant medication and talking therapies. Her research was the first to demonstrate that the pattern of neural activation during sad facial processing could accurately diagnose depression for an individual person and how the pattern of brain responses as well as morphological changes could help to predict how likely an individual patient will respond to psychological or pharmacological treatments.


Cynthia's research focuses on the brain regions affected by depression, how they change with treatment with psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy, and whether we can predict clinical response before the start of treatment. Her research has direct translational potential and had led to primary publications in the development of biomarkers for diagnosis and prognosis based on brain imaging.
Cynthia's research is regularly cited in the top decile for influential publications in psychiatry and has received numerous awards, including the British Association for Psychopharmacology Award and from the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression (Brain & Behavior Research Foundation).


Selected publications

  • Fu CH, Steiner H, Costafreda SG. Predictive neural biomarkers of clinical response in depression: A meta-analysis of functional and structural neuroimaging studies of pharmacological and psychological therapies. Neurobiol Dis. 2013; 52:75-83. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2012.05.008.
  • Costafreda SG, Khanna A, Mourao-Miranda J, Fu CH. Neural correlates of sad faces predict clinical remission to cognitive behavioural therapy in depression. Neuroreport. 2009; 20:637-41. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e3283294159.
  • Marquand AF, Mourão-Miranda J, Brammer MJ, Cleare AJ, Fu CH. Neuroanatomy of verbal working memory as a diagnostic biomarker for depression. Neuroreport. 2008; 19:1507-11. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e328310425e.
  • Fu CH, Williams SCR, Cleare AJ, Scott J, Mitterschiffthaler MT, Walsh ND, Donaldson C, Suckling J, Andrew C, Steiner H, Murray RM. Neural responses to sad facial expressions in major depression following cognitive behavior therapy. Biol Psychiatry. 2008; 64:505-12. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.04.033.
  • Costafreda SG, Brammer MJ, David AS, Fu CH. Predictors of amygdala activation during the processing of emotional stimuli: A meta-analysis of 385 PET and fMRI studies. Brain Res Rev. 2008; 58:57-70.
  • Fu CHY, Mourao-Miranda J, Costafreda SG, Khanna A, Marquand A, Williams SCR, Brammer MJ. Pattern classification of sad facial processing: toward the development of neurobiological markers in depression. Biol Psychiatry. 2008; 63:656-62.
  • Mitterschiffthaler MT, Williams SCR, Walsh ND, Cleare AJ, Donaldson C, Scott J, Murray RM, Fu CH. Neural basis of the emotional Stroop interference effect in major depression. Psychol Med. 2008; 38:247-56.
  • Fu CH, Williams SCR, Brammer MJ, Suckling J, Kim J, Cleare AJ, Walsh ND, Mitterschiffthaler MT, Andrew C, Pich EM, Bullmore ET. Neural responses to happy facial expressions in major depression following antidepressant treatment. Am J Psychiatry. 2007; 164:599-607.
  • Walsh ND, Williams SCR, Brammer MJ, Bullmore ET, Kim J, Suckling J, Mitterschiffthaler MT, Cleare AJ, Merlo Pich E, Mehta M, Fu CH. A longitudinal fMRI study of verbal working memory in depression following antidepressant therapy. Biol Psychiatry. 2007; 62:1236-43.
  • Fu CH, Suckling J, Williams SC, Andrew CM, Vythelingum GN, McGuire PK. Effects of psychotic state and task demand on prefrontal function in schizophrenia: an fMRI study of overt verbal fluency. Am J Psychiatry. 2005; 162:485-94.
  • Fu CH, Williams SCR, Cleare AJ, Brammer MJ, Walsh ND, Kim J, Andrew C, Pich EM, Williams PM, Reed LJ, Mitterschiffthaler MT, Suckling J, Bullmore ET. Antidepressant treatment attenuates the neural response to sad faces in major depression: a prospective, event-related functional MRI study. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2004; 61:877-89.
  • Fu CH, Costafreda SG. Neuroimaging-based biomarkers in psychiatry: clinical opportunities of a paradigm shift. Can J Psychiatry. 2013; 58:499-508.
  • Fu CHY, Russell T, Senior C, Weinberger DR, Murray RM : Editors (2003) A Guide to Neuroimaging in Psychiatry Martin Dunitz, London, UK.
  • Goss AJ, Kaser M, Costafreda SG, Sahakian BJ, Fu CH. Modafinil augmentation therapy in unipolar and bipolar depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Clin Psychiatry/ 2013; 74:1101-7. doi: 10.4088/JCP.13r08560.
  • Cole J, Chaddock CA, Farmer AE, Aitchison KJ, Simmons A, McGuffin P, Fu CH. White matter abnormalities and illness severity in major depressive disorder. Br J Psychiatry. 2012; 201:33-9. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.111.100594.
  • Nouretdinov I, Costafreda SG, Gammerman A, Chervonenkis A, Vovk V, Vapnik V, Fu CH. Machine learning classification with confidence: application of transductive conformal predictors to MRI-based diagnostic and prognostic markers in depression. Neuroimage. 2011; 56:809-13. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.05.023.
  • Cole J, Costafreda SG, McGuffin P, Fu CH. Hippocampal atrophy in first episode depression: a meta-analysis of magnetic resonance imaging studies. J Affect Disord. 2011; 134:483-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.05.057.
  • Juruena MF, Giampietro VP, Smith SD, Surguladze SA, Dalton JA, Benson PJ, Cleare AJ, Fu CH. Amygdala activation to masked happy facial expressions. J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2010; 16:383-7. doi: 10.1017/S1355617709991172.
  • Cole J, Toga AW, Hojatkashani C, Thompson P, Costafreda SG, Cleare AJ, Williams SC, Bullmore ET, Scott JL, Mitterschiffthaler MT, Walsh ND, Donaldson C, Mirza M, Marquand A, Nosarti C, McGuffin P, Fu CH. Subregional hippocampal deformations in major depressive disorder. J Affect Disord. 2010; 126:272-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2010.03.004.
  • Costafreda SG, Chu C, Ashburner J, Fu CH. Prognostic and diagnostic potential of the structural neuroanatomy of depression. PLoS One. 2009; 4:e6353. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006353.


Cynthia has received funding from the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly.


Cynthia is also an Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist in the Affective Disorders Service at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and is a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Affective Disorders, King's College London.