The new joint Clinical Neuroscience Research Centre (CNRC) and Institute of Psychiatry study showed that abnormalities previously found in patients with long-term psychoses are present much earlier, perhaps even before symptoms develop. Brain scans of 25 patients in the earliest stages of psychosis showed parts of a section of the brain mainly related to memory and recognition of speech (the temporal lobe) were shrunk compared with those of healthy people.
These findings, to be published in the July issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggest that brain scans, using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) could be used to screen for problems in high-risk groups even before symptoms develop.
CNRC Director Professor Tonmoy Sharma said that ultimately brain imaging might fundamentally alter the approach to illnesses such as schizophrenia. "We can now see that differences in brain structure and function are present at a very early stage," he said. "The findings also suggest that brain imaging could become a powerful predictor of future illness. Psychiatrists may be able to treat patients right from the start, preventing distressing symptoms like hallucinations from becoming established."
"In time, with a suitable screening method for schizophrenia using brain imaging, preventative psychiatry becomes a realistic possibility."
Contact: Sanchayita Sharma