Neural mechanisms of positive symptoms in first-episode and prodromal psychosis.

John Grace QC PhD Scholarship 2020 - King's College London

Supervisors: Gemma Modinos, Philip McGuire.

Summary: One in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. The cost of mental ill health to the economy, NHS and society is estimated to be £105 billion a year. Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder involving psychotic symptoms such as hearing voices that aren't there. Available treatments do not work for about a third of patients and have no impact on prevention. To develop better treatments, we must understand the brain basis of how schizophrenia develops. In the brain, psychosis is associated with excess production of a chemical called dopamine, but we know little about what causes this. Recent research suggests that the dopamine excess is due to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to deficits in the chemical system GABA. GABA deficits elevate activity in key brain areas such as the hippocampus, leading to increased dopamine and psychotic symptoms. Studies also show that targeting oxidative stress early may be a new way to prevent psychosis. This project will use advanced brain imaging methods to identify the mechanisms linked to psychosis. We will study the relationship between oxidative stress, GABA and psychotic symptoms in people with early psychosis. This will help us understand the brain basis of schizophrenia and inform potential new targets for prevention.