Nav: Home

Towards new indicators of vulnerability to psychotic disorders

April 09, 2019

The decision-making processes of healthy subjects with sub-clinical psychotic episodes are altered in a way that is similar to what happens in subjects with schizophrenia. This is the key result of a study conducted by the Neuroscience and Society Laboratory directed by Raffaella Rumiati of SISSA in association with the Zayed University of Dubai, recently published on Scientific Reports. The research has examined, for the first time, reward mechanisms in healthy people who reported having had psychotic-like episodes, such as auditory hallucinations or lack of motivation, highlighting alterations and identifying possible indicators of vulnerability to psychosis.

Reduced motivation, emotional dysregulation and delusions are phenomena typically associated with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia. However, recent epidemiological studies have reported the presence of these symptoms also in the general population. Particularly, the term "psychotic-like experiences" derives from the hypothesis of the lack of a clear distinction between mental health and psychiatric disorders. The psychotic-like or subclinical experiences, which affect around 8% of young people, in most cases reverse themselves and only a small percentage manifests itself in true psychotic symptoms. What they imply on a behavioural level is still unclear.

The SISSA group, led by researcher Marilena Aiello, has investigated the decision-making processes, in particular the reward system, in 60 subjects with and without subclinical episodes, selected from a sample of 334 participants, mainly university students.

"This is one of the first studies conducted on healthy subjects with psychotic-like experiences," explained Damiano Terenzi, doctoral student in cognitive neurosciences and first author of the study. "The participants performed two types of tasks to study their reward system. It is well-known that schizophrenic patients prefer to obtain a little and immediately rather than wait or struggle to have more".

In the first task, the subject was asked to choose between one immediate but smaller reward (food or money) and a delayed larger one. In the second case, the effort required to obtain tasty food was increased during subsequent trials, and the subject was asked to decide whether 'to work' or not to obtain the reward.

"In both cases, we observed alterations in the behaviour of people with more frequent subclinical episodes - in particular in those with higher levels of negative symptoms like the lack of motivation - similarly to what happens in patients with a schizophrenic disorder," concludes Terenzi. "The study of these subjects opens new roads to understanding psychotic disorders and to identifying vulnerability indicators for their development".

Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati

Related Mental Health Articles:

The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health: Mental health harms related to very frequent social media use in girls might be due to exposure to cyberbullying, loss of sleep or reduced physical activity
Very frequent use of social media may compromise teenage girls' mental health by increasing exposure to bullying and reducing sleep and physical exercise, according to an observational study of almost 10,000 adolescents aged 13-16 years studied over three years in England between 2013-2015, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.
Can Facebook improve your mental health?
Contrary to popular belief, using social media and the internet regularly could improve mental health among adults and help fend off serious psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety, finds a new Michigan State University study.
A gut feeling for mental health
The first population-level study on the link between gut bacteria and mental health identifies specific gut bacteria linked to depression and provides evidence that a wide range of gut bacteria can produce neuroactive compounds.
Mental health care increasing most among those with less distress
A new study shows that more Americans are getting outpatient mental health care and the rate of serious psychological distress is decreasing.
On-again, off-again relationships might be toxic for mental health
A researcher from the University of Missouri says that the pattern of breaking up and getting back together can impact an individual's mental health and not for the better.
More Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...