Brain Training Study 

Individuals at clinical high-risk for schizophrenia (i.e., those experiencing attentuated psychotic symptoms) experience cognitive deficits that are associated with neuroanatomical and functional abnormalities. These deficits have been demonstrated to predict illness progression and course. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether targeted neuroplasticity-based cognitive training improves the structure and function of the neural mechanisms that support cognition and daily functioning in individuals at-risk for schizophrenia.

Neurodevelopment of Social Cognition

The ability to interact effectively with other people is critical to the success of both children and adults. This particular line of our research investigates how children’s brains develop to think about social interactions and what problems arise if this development goes off course. We are particularly interested in how atypical neurodevelopment might give rise to mental illnesses like schizophrenia and/or autistic spectrum disorders. This work focuses on the neurobiological mechanisms underlying social cognitive processes (such as empathy, theory of mind, and emotion recognition) that are important for children to successfully navigate social interactions.

A current research study, SCOPE (Social Cognition in Preadolescents), seeks to better understand the neural abnormalities that may underlie social cognitive impairments in children at clinical high risk for schizophrenia spectrum disorders.

We are also interested in exploring the possible brain bases of the difficulties in social cognition and function experienced by children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Specifically, we are investigating the relationships among brain structure and function, social cognition, and social functioning in three groups: (a) children at a clinical high risk for schizophrenia, (b) children diagnosed with ASD, and (c) typically developing children. This work will be carried out using structural and functional MRI, as well as behavioral tasks including clinical, social cognitive, and social functioning measures. 

Biomarkers of Vulnerability Among Individuals at Genetic Risk for Schizophrenia

Somatomotor and social cognitive deficits are core symptoms of schizophrenia and, to a lesser extent, deficits are apparent in individuals at familial high risk (FHR) for psychosis (i.e. those with a first-degree relative with schizophrenia disorder). Importantly, for those at FHR, longitudinal studies have shown that somatomotor and social functioning problems independently predict the development of psychosis in adulthood. These findings suggest that both of these characteristics of schizophrenia pathology are identifiable biomarkers of psychosis risk. However, assessment for both somatomotor and social functioning are not sensitive enough to reveal the spectrum of individual variation and identify the degree of risk for impending psychosis. Using novel, quantifiable, and highly sensitive methods, we hope to identify the relationship between somatomotor deficits, embodied cognition, and day-to-day social functioning in the psychosis prone.

If you are interested in participating in any one of these studies, please visit out Participation page for more information.