Image: Dr. Christin Schifani in CAMH’s Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Centre
TORONTO, JULY 11, 2018 — Stressful situations affect the brain and body differently in people with schizophrenia compared to people without the mental illness or individuals at high risk for developing psychosis, a new CAMH study shows. The relationship between two chemicals released when people experienced stress – one released in the brain and the other in saliva – differs in people with schizophrenia. The discovery, recently published in the journal Brain, may provide clues into how to act early to prevent schizophrenia.
“We found a disrupted stress response in people with schizophrenia, which did not occur in either healthy individuals or people at clinical high risk for developing psychosis,” says Dr. Christin Schifani, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Brain Health Imaging Centre in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute, and lead author of the study.
As most people with schizophrenia experience psychosis, identifying differences between people at high risk for psychosis and those with schizophrenia may shed light on how schizophrenia develops and ways to prevent its onset.
“The fact we see this disrupted stress response in people with schizophrenia, but not in people at high risk for psychosis, suggests an opportunity to intervene to prevent schizophrenia,” says Dr. Romina Mizrahi, Clinician Scientist in the Campbell Institute at CAMH, and senior author of the study. “Developing strategies to cope with stress and build resilience may be the opportunity.”
Dr. Mizrahi leads the Focus on Youth Psychosis Prevention (FYPP) Clinic and research program at CAMH, which is dedicated to the early identification and treatment of people aged 16 to 35 who are at high risk of developing psychosis. Helping people to identify sources of stress and adopt coping strategies is a key focus of the clinic’s work. Assessing the impact of stress management strategies to reduce psychosis and schizophrenia risks will be a goal of future research.