Scientists zeroing in on psychosis risk factors

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | Dec. 8, 2014

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The onset of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders typically occurs at about 21 years of age, with warning signs beginning around age 17, on average. iStockphoto

The consortium of researchers, from Emory and seven other universities, has also discovered several biological processes tied to the transition from subtle symptoms to clinical psychosis.

The onset of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders typically occurs at about 21 years of age, with warning signs, known as a prodromal syndrome, beginning around age 17, on average. About 30 to 40 percent of youth who meet current criteria for a prodromal syndrome will develop schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.

"We are moving at an unprecedented pace towards identifying more precise predictors," says Elaine Walker, an Emory professor of psychology and neuroscience. "By increasing our understanding of the factors that give rise to psychosis, we hope to ultimately improve the ability to provide preventive intervention."

Walker is one of the principal investigators in the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study (NAPLS). The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) funded the ongoing study, which unites the efforts of Emory, the University of North Carolina, Yale, Harvard, the University of Calgary, UCLA and UC San Diego, and the Feinstein Institute at Hillside Hospital.

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