Katherine Aitchison

Professor, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry - Psychiatry Dept


Professor, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry - Psychiatry Dept
(780) 492-4018


Area of Study / Keywords

Biomarkers to enable better treatment Indigenous health behavioural addictions non-suicidal self-injury and suicide attempts resilience


Dr. Katherine Aitchison is the Associate Director, Mental Health, for the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute, a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics, and Physician Coordinator of the Edmonton Mood and Anxiety Disorder Program at the University of Alberta and with Alberta Health Services.  She trained in medicine with a first class honours degree in Physiological Sciences (and a university prize, as joint second in the year) at the University of Oxford, and then in psychiatry residency at the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospital, London.  Her PhD (King’s College London; Wellcome Trust funded) in psychiatry was on the pharmacogenetics of cytochrome P450 enzymes and their role in response to antidepressants and antipsychotics.  She completed a Travelling Fellowship at the National Institutes of Health where she conducted sequencing and genotyping of CYP1A2 and a CYP1A2 knock-out mouse study in the laboratory of Dr. Frank Gonzalez (working with S. Kimura, who was the first to sequence the CYP2D6 gene), and at the University of Colorado (USA), where she conducted site-directed mutagenesis and in vitro reporter gene assays of the effects of mutations in the CYP1A2 promoter that she had identified.  From 2004-2008, she served as Deputy (Acting) Coordinator for an 18-centre European Commission funded Integrated Project including a clinical trial plus in vitro and in vivo work:  Pharmacogneomic project called Genome-based therapeutic drugs for depression (GENDEP). She joined U of A in relocated to Canada in 2011 September 2011 as an Alberta Centennial Addiction & Mental Health Research Chair. In 2013 she won a Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) award for laboratory equipment for precision health work and matching funding from Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education (IAE), Small Equipment Grants Program. In 2018, together with Dr. Chad Bousman (U of C), she was awarded an Alberta Innovates Strategic Research Project in precision health: PRIME - Pharmacogenomics for the Prevention of Adverse Drug Reactions in mental health. This has facilitated the continued development of innovations in pharmacogenomics for application in mental health and addictions, and in medicine more widely.

Dr. Aitchison serves/has served on various committees including Campus Alberta  Neuroscience Advisory Committee, Canadian Psychiatric Association Research Committee (Chair), Society of Biological Psychiatry Inclusivity Task Force (Chair), Society of Biological Psychiatry Ambassador Program, Pharmacogene Variation Consortium, Clinical Pharmacogenetics Implementation Consortium and the Genetic Testing Committee, International Society of Psychiatric Genetics. Honors include an Alberta Health Services President's Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievements in Patient and Family-Centred Care (2018, to the Edmonton Early Psychosis Intervention Clinic, for which she was lead psychiatrist at the time).



Dr. Aitchison leads the Precision AMH (Addiction and Mental Health) Lab at the University of Alberta (U of A), which focuses on precision health for mental health. Precision Health (as defined by the U of A) is an emerging health model that integrates molecular, clinical and environmental data to improve the diagnosis and treatment of individual patients, as well as to inform the social determinants of health. Current areas of focus include: biomarkers to enable better treatment, Indigenous health, behavioural addictions, non-suicidal self-injury and suicide attempts, and resilience.

Featured Publications

The Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience; The 43rd Annual Meeting of the Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology Supplement. 2022 June; 10.1503/jpn.220043

Jiang S, Wallace K, Yang E, Roper L, Aryal G, Lee D, Lodhi RJ, Arnau R, Isenberg R, Green B, Wishart D, Aitchison KJ

medRxiv. 2022 May; 10.1101/2022.01.31.21267382

Pain O, Hodgson K, Trubetskoy V, Ripke S, Marshe VS, Adams MJ, Byrne EM, Campos AI, Carrillo-Roa T, Cattaneo A, Damm Als T, Souery D, Dernovsek MZ, Fabbri C, Hayward C, Henigsberg N, Hauser J, Kennedy JL, Lenze EJ, Lewis G, Müller DJ, Martin NG, Mulsant BH, Mors O, Perroud N, Porteous DJ, Rentería ME, Reynolds III CF, Rietschel M, Uher R, Wigmore EM, Maier W, Wray NR, Aitchison KJ Arolt V, Baune BT, Biernacka JM, Bondolfi G, Domschke K, Kato M, Li QS, Liu Y, Serretti A, Tsai S, Turecki G, Weinshilboum R, the GSRD Consortium, the Major Depressive Disorder Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, McIntosh AM, Lewis CM

Biological Psychiatry Global Open Science. 2022 April; 2 (2):115-126 10.1016/j.bpsgos.2021.07.008

Chan E.C., Wallace K., Yang E.H., Roper L., Aryal G., Lodhi R.J., Isenberg R., Carnes P., Baskys A., Green B., Aitchison K.J.

Psychiatry Research . 2022 January; 307 10.1016/j.psychres.2021.114316

Yap S., Luki J., Hanstock C.C., Seres P., Shandro T., Hanstock S.E.C., Lirette A., Zhao H., Aitchison K.J., Le Melledo J.M.

Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2021 December; 12 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.763562

Köhler-Forsberg O., Keers R., Uher R., Hauser J., Maier W., Rietschel M., McGuffin P., Farmer A.E., Aitchison K.J., Mors O.

Psychological Medicine. 2021 November; 10.1017/S003329172100444X

Carvalho Henriques B., Buchner A., Hu X., Wang Y., Yavorskyy V., Wallace K., Dong R., Martens K., Carr M.S., Behroozi Asl B., Hague J., Sivapalan S., Maier W., Dernovsek M.Z., Henigsberg N., Hauser J., Souery D., Cattaneo A., Mors O., Rietschel M., Pfeffer G., Hume S., Aitchison K.J.

Translational Psychiatry. 2021 November; 11 (1) 10.1038/s41398-021-01717-9

Chan E.C., Wallace K., Yang E.H., Roper L., Aryal G., Lodhi R.J., Baskys A., Isenberg R., Carnes P., Green B., Aitchison K.J.

Psychiatry Research . 2021 October; 304 10.1016/j.psychres.2021.114128

McKee K.A., Hmidan A., Crocker C.E., Lam R.W., Meyer J.H., Crockford D., Trépanier A., Aitchison K.J., Tibbo P.G.

Journal of Psychiatric Research. 2021 August; 140 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.05.044

Research Square. 2021 August; 10.21203/rs.3.rs-123677/v1

Buchner A., Hu X., Aitchison K.J.

Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2021 July; 12 10.3389/fphar.2021.713178

Bousman C.A., Wu P., Aitchison K.J., Cheng T.

Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2021 March; 12 10.3389/fphar.2021.636650

Maruf A.A., Stein K., Arnold P.D., Aitchison K.J., Müller D.J., Bousman C.

Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. 2021 February; 31 (1):33-45 10.1089/cap.2020.0093

Fan M., Yarema M.C., Box A., Hume S., Aitchison K.J., Bousman C.A.

Pharmacogenetics and Genomics. 2021 February; 10.1097/FPC.0000000000000418

Chan E.C., Sun Y., Aitchison K.J., Sivapalan S.

JMIR Formative Research. 2021 January; 5 (1) 10.2196/13770

Bousman C.A., Bengesser S.A., Aitchison K.J., Amare A.T., Aschauer H., Baune B.T., Behroozi Asl B., Bishop J.R., Burmeister M., Chaumette B., Chen L.S., Cordner Z.A., Deckert J., Degenhardt F., Delisi L.E., Folkersen L., Kennedy J.L., Klein T.E., McClay J.L., McMahon F.J., Musil R., Saccone N.L., Sangkuhl K., Stowe R.M., Tan E.C., Tiwari A.K., Zai C.C., Zai G., Zhang J., Gaedigk A., Müller D.J.

PHARMACOPSYCHIATRY. 2021 January; 54 (1):5-17 10.1055/a-1288-1061