Schizophrenia & Affective Disorders
Prof Christos Pantelis has focussed on all stages of psychosis from pre-psychosis (individuals at incipient risk of developing a psychotic illness) through to patients with chronic schizophrenia. His most influential work has been studies at the earliest stages of the illness. In a series of papers, including a landmark paper published in the Lancet in 2003, he and his team, in close collaboration with ORYGEN Research Centre, Cambridge University and the Institute of Psychiatry (UK), demonstrated for the first time that progressive brain changes occur in schizophrenia and early psychosis during the transition phase, from a premorbid ‘ultra-high risk’ state to active psychotic illness.
He also demonstrated that abnormalities were apparent prior to onset of psychosis; findings that may be relevant to predicting who is at incipient risk of developing a psychosis. Prof Pantelis was awarded the Selwyn-Smith Medical Research Prize from The University of Melbourne for this work.
Further work on the neuropsychological functioning at the earliest stages of psychosis has also identified potential markers of illness or its prognosis, including findings that spatial working memory (Wood et al) and the ability to identify smells (Brewer et al) are apparent prior to illness onset. This research has confirmed that progressive changes commence before the onset of illness and continue over the first two to four years of schizophrenia. This finding has challenged the dominant notion that these brain abnormalities in psychosis and schizophrenia have necessarily occurred during early brain development (pre- or peri-natal). These studies have led to further longitudinal work to examine the nature, extent and timing of progressive brain changes in psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia and mood disorders. These changes are being considered in the context of normal and anomalous brain maturation (see Adolescent Development of Brain & Behaviour).