Étudiante-chercheuse étoile February 2018

Josiane Bourque

PhD student in Psychiatry
Université de Montréal

Award-winning publication: Functional Neuroimaging Predictors of Self-Reported Psychotic Symptoms in Adolescents

Published in: American Journal of Psychiatry


Owing to the severity of certain mental health problems such as psychosis, research in the field has focused on identifying individuals at risk. When assessing the risk of psychosis, most studies distinguish adults who are already seeking treatment for their symptoms. Josiane Bourque therefore set out to determine whether it was possible to identify teenagers who are at risk of developing psychosis and thus create a window of time in which preventative actions can be taken. To that end, the research team measured the brain activity of over 1 000 14-year-olds as they carried out a series of cognitive tasks. Two years later, the teenagers filled in questionnaires on the presence of psychotic symptoms. By comparing the results, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the brain's exaggerated response to non-threatening signals unrelated to emotions constitutes a factor that predicts the emergence of psychotic symptoms in adolescence. The study confirmed that it is possible to detect abnormal brain activity in teenagers well before the appearance of symptoms that could require medical intervention.