Researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland received a $2.2 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study social impairment associated with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. The four-year grant will support Jack Blanchard, Ph.D., Joel and Kim Feller Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology, and collaborators in applying an innovative approach to determine factors that contribute to the profound social impairment and diminished social affiliation related to psychosis.
“People who suffer from these severe forms of mental illness often have significant difficulties functioning at work, in school and in their relationships with family and friends,” Dr. Blanchard said. “We don’t fully understand what is happening in the brain to contribute to these profound social difficulties that make living with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders so debilitating.”
As part of the study, approximately 140 participants will undergo functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans that will allow researchers to examine brain responses to social contact and social reward. The UMD research team will also conduct behavioral assessments and cognitive testing to evaluate how memory, learning difficulties and social skills may be related to social functioning.
It is estimated that up to 3 percent of individuals will experience at least one episode of psychosis at some point in their lifetimes—translating to approximately 9.5 million individuals in the United States. Serious mental illness, which includes psychotic disorders, is associated with annual health care expenditures in the US of more than $100 billion and an annual loss of earnings totaling $193.2 billion. The UMD researchers hope their findings will increase the understanding of social dysfunction in psychosis and ultimately inform the development of new treatments.
September 19, 2016