Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder that affects approximately 2.2 million Americans each year. It is characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by a deficit of typical emotional responses. Symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking usually develop in men in their late teens and early twenties and in women in their twenties and thirties. In rare cases, schizophrenia can be diagnosed in childhood. It is believed that the best chance to deter the progression of the illness is to intervene and treat aggressively at the first episode of psychosis.
Feinstein Institute researchers are focusing on several approaches to gain information on and develop new treatments for schizophrenia. These approaches include studies to identify genes that contribute to the risk for developing schizophrenia; the development of new imaging methods to identify teenagers with symptoms who could later develop schizophrenia and to test response to treatment; and the study of environmental factors like cannabis as triggers of illness. In addition, they are studying the use of new technologies – from smart-phones to two-way video – to enhance disease management. Some of these studies are large clinical trials.
A recent approach by Feinstein Institute researchers includes using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans to help psychiatrists quickly determine which antipsychotic drugs work best for patients. These fMRI brain scans are being used to develop a measurement of how well two regions of the brain communicate with each other.
Principal investigators conducting schizophrenia research include Michael L. Birnbaum; Eric H. Chang; Barbara A. Cornblatt; Christoph U. Correll; John M. Kane; Todd Lencz; Anil Malhotra and Delbert G. Robinson.