Prefrontal cortical function in people at ultra-high risk for psychosis: An fMRI study of reflexive eye movements
Subtle cognitive impairments in areas such as attention, working memory and goal-directed behaviour are an increasingly well-recognised characteristic of psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia. These impairments also appear to be stable over time, and may be present long before the onset of a psychotic episode.
This study aims to use eye movement tasks to look at the patterns of Blood Oxygen Level Dependant (BOLD) functional MRI activity in the brains of young people at ultra-high risk of psychosis. We recruit our participants from the PACE (Personal Assessment and Crisis Evaluation) Clinic, run through ORYGEN Youth Health. These people are experiencing difficulties in their lives and relationships, might have a close relative with psychotic illness, and are often suffering distressing sub-clinical psychosis-like symptoms. We are using eye movement tasks as they are easy to perform in the MRI scanner and we know that they involve areas of the frontal cortex that are also involved in both cognition and psychosis.
We aim to look at patterns of activity in the frontal areas of the brain in people at ultra-high risk of psychosis, and compare them to patterns from control participants. We are also repeating our recordings on the same people 12 months later, and comparing patterns from ultra-high risk people who developed psychosis to those who did not. This study will give us more information about the processes involved in the development of psychosis, perhaps allowing doctors to make better predictions about who might be at greater risk and in more urgent need of treatment.
A/Prof Stephen Wood, Dr Larry Abel (Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences)
Ms Elizabeth Bowman
Dr Cali Bartholomeusz
Melbourne Health: MHREC 2004.076
Royal Children’s Hospital HREC 26115 and 26178