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IOL Receives $1.5M National Grant to Study Therapeutic Approaches to Psychotic Disorders

August 31, 2022

A $1.5-million federal grant will help Institute of Living researchers probe ways psychiatrists can accurately predict psychotic disorders earlier, and treat them more effectively.

The work, being done at the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center at the IOL, will ensure that the most appropriate clinical intervention is offered early to best affect the course of the illness. The funding, over five years, will come from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH).

Godfrey Pearlson, MD

“We are looking at biologically-based classifications to see if we can do better in predicting how patients who are experiencing their first episode of psychotic illness will do over the next few years, and what treatments they will respond to best,” said Godfrey Pearlson, MD, director at Olin and research director at the IOL.

He explained that when young people are diagnosed with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and forms of bipolar disorder, their clinical outcome over time is currently hard to predict. Some patients recover completely, while others do not respond to standard treatments and decline in function over time. Currently, there is no reliable way to predict which individuals will do well and which will not, or who will best respond to a particular treatment.

The information collected from the study will use neuroscience to help us guide care providers to the therapeutic approaches that are most likely to be effective for an individual patient,” added Dr. Pearlson.

IOL researchers plan to utilize biological measurements such as EEGs, eye movement testing, neuro-cognition and MRI scans to classify the study participants. They will also gather additional information from participants by using smart phones and interviewing family members. The plan is to follow the participants over time and use machine learning approaches to predict their treatment outcomes.

The study will be conducted by IOL researchers in conjunction with colleagues at four other sites across the U.S. as part of the Bipolar-Schizophrenia Network on Intermediate Phenotypes (B-SNIP), a professional consortium of researchers seeking to develop classifications of psychiatric conditions based on biological measurements, which may be more effective at identifying causes and treatments than symptoms alone.

The NIMH grant is the latest funding for psychosis research at the IOL. Ongoing work includes the international ProNET project that studies young people at very high risk for developing psychosis, and a clozapine medication trial that harnesses biological information to help predict which individual patients respond best to particular antipsychotic medications.

The new study will begin this fall and researchers will recruit 320 early psychosis patients aged 18 to mid-30s. Participants will be followed in the study for 12 to 18 months.

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