Individuals suffering from the major psychoses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, often share a cluster of symptoms that include hallucinations, lack of motivation, and delusional ideas. Unfortunately, these disorders can be triggered in the teenage years or early adulthood, and, as result, may severely impact their ability to work, get married, or start a family. Before suffering from a full blown case of psychosis, individuals may go through a period of "high-risk" where they may start to experiencing these symptoms, but below a clinical threshold. In addition, one of the single greatest risk factors for these disorders is family history. In fact, siblings who are unaffected may even share progressive brain deficits often observed in those suffering from the major psychosis. However, why some siblings go onto suffer from one of these disorders while others are spared remains a mystery.
The aim of my research program is to study the brain anatomy of individuals who are in the high-risk state, their unaffected siblings, and normal controls using new high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques developed in my laboratory. I will also acquire data at two different time points to better understand the progression of brain anatomy, particularly in cases where those at high-risk have improved symptoms.
The overall goal of my program, is to better understand brain resilience to the major psychoses through the study of patients whose symptoms improve and healthy siblings who do not suffer from the psychoses. My hope is that, by understanding brain signatures of resilience to the major psychoses that I can inform the development of new interventions to better serve underserved groups suffering.