Risk calculator for psychosis gives clinicians a valuable new tool

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | July 5, 2016

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"Our consortium is the first to develop a health risk calculator for psychosis based on a large sample," says Emory psychologist Elaine Walker.

A national consortium of researchers has developed an individual risk calculator for schizophrenia and other psychosis, comparable to those for cardiovascular disease and other illnesses.

The free, online tool – for use by qualified clinicians and researchers – is based on a study of hundreds of clinical high-risk participants in the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study (NAPLS). The American Journal of Psychiatry published the findings by NAPLS, a National Institutes of Mental Health consortium comprised of nine research sites, including Emory University.

“Risk calculators for estimating risk of heart attack, stroke and other illnesses are already used by medical researchers and practitioners,” says Emory psychologist Elaine Walker. “Our consortium is the first to develop a health risk calculator for psychosis based on a large sample. It’s another step in the direction of taking mental disorders into the same realm as other kinds of illnesses, to help reduce the stigma and enhance our ability to treat people.”

Walker, the principle investigator for the Emory University site of NAPLS, specializes in the role of stress and stress neurobiology in the development of psychosis.

“The risk calculator runs on data derived in a clinical setting,” Walker says. “Gathering that information requires that an individual undergo diagnostic testing and an interview by a qualified professional, so the calculator is not something that a lay person could use.”

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