Continuum de risque pour la psychose et vulnérabilité au stress


Jai Shah

Centre de recherche de l'IUSM Douglas


Domaine : neurosciences, santé mentale et toxicomanies

Programme chercheurs-boursiers cliniciens - Junior 1

Concours 2015-2016

Early life adversity and stressful environments are associated with an increased risk for psychotic disorders, but there is still little understanding of how the biology and psychology of stress interact to cause psychosis in those at risk. By following how these elements evolve together over time, we will learn about their interaction and devise ways of intervening early and appropriately.  

In a range of projects, my team will study groups of young people (age 12-35) with vulnerability for psychosis, including those at clinical high-risk, familial high-risk (who have a relative with psychosis), and healthy controls. These groups will be asked about their subjective stress, their psychiatric and psychotic symptoms, and will provide stress-related biological measures (cortisol in saliva, skin conductance, heart rate, blood pressure, and brain structures including the hippocampus and pituitary). Groups will be compared initially and then annually for up to 3 years to determine which individuals go on to develop a full-blown psychosis.  Separately, we will assess young people at familial high-risk for a variety of emerging mental disorders to see if these measures are specific to psychosis risk or generalizable across risk for mental illness.

We predict that at-risk groups of all types will show dysregulation in the biological measures, moreso in those who are experiencing greater stress and symptoms.  We also predict that different factors will influence the relationship between stress and symptoms over time, and that dysregulated stress response will be common across risk for all mental illnesses rather than specific to psychosis.  Finally, we will test ways of introducing screening tests into early intervention programs.

Results from this research will help us to identify stress-vulnerability "signatures" of risk for psychosis and other mental illnesses in young people.  Ultimately, we will use these findings to develop strategies for early detection, prevention and intervention.