The structure and function of the Striatum in First Episode Psychosis

Schizophrenia is a complex and devastating mental disorder, marked by a breakdown in the relation between thoughts, feelings, and actions. Symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized language, and disorganized or catatonic behaviour. About one percent of the population develops schizophrenia, usually in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, the cause of this disabling illness remains unclear. Recent evidence suggests disturbances in early brain development may predispose people to schizophrenia. The striatum, a region of the brain involved in motor, sensory, and cognitive processes, is thought to be involved in the development of the disorder. Babak Khorram is using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to compare brain scans of schizophrenia patients and healthy volunteers. Babak is investigating whether abnormalities of the striatum are present when the illness begins, or emerge as a result of treatment, and the effect on patients’ cognitive functioning and treatment. The results could enable clinicians to screen people thought to be susceptible to the disorder, due to genetic and environmental factors. The research could ultimately improve diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia.