New Study Isolates Markers That May Predict Schizophrenia

One of the primary symptoms of schizophrenia is severely impaired cognitive functioning. Prior to the onset of the illness, during a stage referred to as the prodrome, cognitive abilities, including sensory information processing abilities, can begin to deteriorate. During the prodrome, individuals often exhibit behaviors that differ significantly from their normal behaviors and responses. One domain that is affected in clients with schizophrenia is auditory and visual processing. However, little attention has been focused on the levels of auditory and visual processing in clients at risk for or in the early stages of schizophrenia. Understanding how these domains are affected in the earliest stages of schizophrenia could help clinicians better diagnose and treat the illness. In an attempt to examine this dynamic in early onset and at-risk clients, C. Jahshan of the Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center of the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System led a study that focused specifically on event-related responses (ERP).

Using three response classifications, mismatch negativity responses (MMN), reorienting negativity (RON) responses, and attention shifts (P3a), Jahshan examined the neurocognitive abilities of clients with schizophrenia, clients at-risk for schizophrenia, clients in prodrome, and healthy controls. The study revealed that the clients with schizophrenia had deficits in all three areas, and those in prodrome exhibited less activity in MMN, RON, and P3a than healthy participants. The at-risk group, although showing no outward symptoms of impaired functioning, did have decreased MMN and P3a activity, suggesting that these individuals already had difficulty with sensory processing and attention. The findings also support the theory that auditory processing is affected in a negative way in individuals with schizophrenia as well as those at risk for the illness. This deficit can result in decreased attention and difficulty organizing, which can severely impact how one functions in daily life. This new evidence may enable clinicians to detect individuals who are at risk for schizophrenia and psychosis prior to symptom appearance. Jahshan added, “Additionally, it will be useful to ascertain whether measures derived from the MMN/P3a/RON complex can be used to predict medication adherence, academic or vocational functioning, and other instrumental activities of daily living in affected subjects.”

Jahshan, C., Cadenhead, K. S., Rissling, A. J., Kirihara, K., Braff, D. L., Light, G. A. Automatic Sensory Information Processing Abnormalities across the Illness Course of Schizophrenia. Psychological Medicine 42.1 (2012): 85-97. Print.

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  • dorothy


    February 4th, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    whenever I read reports like these I always wonder-how would people really identify these risk factors? from a professional? how many of us go for that routine checkup really?

  • Simone


    February 4th, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    I know that studies like this mean a lot to those in the scientific community, but as a general reader I sometimes sit around scratching my head and trying to really figure out what I just read and how much hope these things can really offer to families who are having to deal with a disease like this. Just once I am sure that they like me would like to sit down and read something pertinent like this and be able to understand exactly what it means and how much hope it really offers for a cure.

  • gary


    February 5th, 2012 at 6:00 AM

    isolating markers and indicators this way gives the scientific community to better orient their research and points to a direction they need to go ahead with.its like isolating the target areas and we all know how important that is if we want to fix something.

  • Joanna


    February 5th, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    Ok, so how much more training are family doctors and pediatricians going to need to be able to recognize these kinds of markers? These are the professionals that would typically see our children at the time when noticing these kinds of markers would be the most critical for prevention and intervention. Simply making them aware that the indicators could be there is not enough. They need to know to look for it and who to refer out to when the indication is there.

  • barton


    February 6th, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    So there sure do seem to be a lot of factors that interplay when one has schizophrenia or at least the symptoms therof. I had never given any thought to how auditory processing could lead to even greater issues with schizophrenia, but this is a real eye opener. I think that we can all see how this one issue, compounded by the others ways that schizophrenia begins to affect the brain, can seriously impair the thinking and reasoning of someone.

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on