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Dr Ruihua Hou MD, MSc, PhD, SFHEA

Associate Dean International, Associate Professor in Biological Psychiatry

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Dr Ruihua Hou is Associate Dean International, Associate Professor in Biological Psychiatry, and the Bachelor of Medicine International Transfer - BM(IT) programme lead.

Dr Hou’s research aims to uncover interactions between the central nervous system and the immune system, and how they contribute to neuropsychiatric function, with the goal of identifying potential therapeutic targets to alter neuroimmune mechanisms and improve clinical outcomes

Dr Hou qualified in medicine and trained as a psychiatrist. She completed a clinical fellowship followed by her PhD in psychopharmacology, both in the Department of Psychiatry at Queen’s Medical Centre, University of Nottingham. Dr Hou joined the Department of Psychiatry within the Faculty of Medicine at Southampton in 2007. She also holds visiting professorships at university hospitals in Shandong and Suzhou in China.

Dr Hou sits on the Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP), the largest community of applied neuroscience research and education in Europe. She has developed an international reputation for her research into neuroinflammation in anxiety and received MRC funding to study neuroinflammation in experimentally induced anxiety. She also pioneered the integration of imaging technologies for research into the locus coeruleus funded by the ARUK. This has established Southampton as a recognised centre for studying this key brain stem nucleus. Her research in these fields has led to ongoing international research collaborations. The scientific boards of MRC, NIHR RfPB, and EPSRC seek her expertise for review of research grant proposals. She also sits on several scientific review boards of research grant applications in Europe and China and is a reviewer of over 20 scientific journals. Dr Hou has led a number of research studies in psychiatry as principle investigator and has published over 60 papers in peer-reviewed journals.

Dr Hou is a strong advocate of internationalisation with a substantial track record of developing international collaborations. She successfully initiated and developed the postgraduate training programme for international psychiatrists in Southampton, launching the first UK-China annual international exchange programme in Psychiatry in 2014. She secured funding for ongoing international research collaborations, working with colleagues overseas to develop research proposals, with recent success in securing funding from scientific bodies in Shandong. She also maintains and strengthens international ties as a visiting professor with regular visits to university hospitals in China, organising international conferences to boost international collaborative efforts for research and education.

Dr Hou is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a panel member for the Professional Recognition of Educator Practice review board. She is the BM(IT) programme lead and the deputy education lead for the school. She is fully involved in key stages of the BM curriculum and received the Dean's Award for Education for developing and leading the 'Introduction to Clinical Medicine in Southampton' module for international medical students. She has set up the first medical elective in China for BM students at Southampton. She leads the Bachelor of Medical Science in psychiatry and delivers lectures, seminars, and tutorials to medical students as well as supervising PhD, MSc, MMedSci, and BMedSci students. She also delivers talks for the Royal College of Psychiatrists CPD training programmes, the NHS Foundation Trust postgraduate training programmes, and workshops on international medical education.


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Research interests

Dr Hou’s main research interests are:

1) psychoneuroimmunology in anxiety and affective disorders – exploring interactions between the central nervous system and the immune system, and how these affect cognitive function and behaviour, with the goal of identifying potential therapeutic targets;                      

2) human psychopharmacology, with a special interest in neural mechanisms - the role of the locus coeruleus in neuropsychiatric disorders using MRI imaging technique and pharmacological challenge, with the goal of identifying new intervention targets.

Ruihua Hou


Current research

Dr Hou’s current research aims to:

1) identify modifiable inflammatory processes or molecules linked to affective and anxiety disorders; and develop behavioural and/or psychopharmacological interventions with the potential to alter neuroimmune mechanisms and improve clinical outcomes;

2) explore the role of the locus coeruleus in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease using MRI imaging technique, with the goal of identifying new pharmacological intervention targets;

3) use pupillometry to facilitate quantifiable measurements of cognitive load and brain activity, in particular to explore the potential role of noradrenaline in cognitive processing under stress and anxiety;

4) examine comorbid anxiety and depression in medical conditions such as asthma, autoimmune diseases, Subarachnoid haemorrhage, and cancer, and identify potential underlying mechanisms;

5) investigate sleep problems in affective disorders and examine the role of neuroinflammation.

To PhD candidates and visiting academics

Dr Hou is happy to consider PhD applications from UK and overseas in any of the above areas and is happy to host international visiting academic scholars.


Clinical and Experimental Sciences

Affiliate Department(s)

Clinical Neuroscience Research group, Centre for Clinical and Community Applications of Health Psychology (CCCAHP), Institute for Life Sciences, Multidisciplinary Research Network

  • Lead the development of Faculty internationalisation strategy for education.
  • Support the development of University internationalisation strategy.
  • Member of University International Executive Group.
  • Member of University Collaborative Provision committee.
  • Panel member for University Professional Recognition of Educator Practice review board.
  • Member of University Special Considerations Committee.
  • Member of Faculty Education Committee.
  • Member of Faculty Research Management Committee.
  • Chair of Faculty Special Considerations Panel.
  • Member of Psychiatry Undergraduate Strategy Group.
  • Scientific Advisory Panel member of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP).
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  • BM(International Transfer) programme lead.
  • BM: deliver lectures and tutorials.
  • BMedSci: lead in Psychiatry.
  • MSc and Doctoral programme: supervisor and examiner.
  • PhD/DM: supervisor and examiner.
  • BM: Personal academic tutor.
Dr Ruihua Hou
University Department of Psychiatry Academic Centre, College Keep, 4-12 Terminus Terrace, Southampton SO14 3DT

Tel: +44 (0)23 8071 8537
Fax: +44 (0)23 8071 8532

Room number: College Keep 2-29

Room Number: 123 Coll. Keep//N2

Telephone:(023) 8231 0780
Facsimile:(023) 8071 8532

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