Mental Illness Predicted by Studying Brain Patterns

Mental Illness Predicted by Studying Brain Patterns

Mental illness and the potential children may have to develop it can possibly be determined by studying the brain patterns in children and young adults, according to research presented at the Forum for European Neuroscience by researchers from Nottingham University.

By studying brain patterns, the researchers believe they have found ways to determine whether certain markers exist that will predict whether or not the children will develop schizophrenia or other mental illnesses. By being able to recognize the potential mental disorder before its onset, the researchers believe that it will be easier for them to manage symptoms before the get out of control.

“If we give them a better start, they may encounter the illness in a more positive way and not get quite so ill,” explained Dr. Maddie Groom, one of the Nottingham University’s researchers.

“If we can identify people who are at particularly high risk of developing schizophrenia, perhaps using neurocognitive brain markers, then we might be able to reduce that risk and also help them to function better,” said Groom.

The researchers studied pairs of siblings, one of whom had schizophrenia and the other mentally healthy. “When we measured the brain activity of the siblings of people with schizophrenia, their brain activity was reduced at the time when they needed to pay attention to the stimulus, and when they needed to inhibit their response,” explained Groom.

The siblings were required to play a computer game while their brains were scanned and monitored using brain imaging technology. The game, which required the siblings to quickly respond to images on a screen to determine whether or not the alien appearing on the screen should be “zapped,” allowed the researchers to see the difference in reactions between the two, specifically in being able to stop themselves from zapping the wrong kind of alien.