When an individual loses touch with reality and sees, hears, or believes things that aren’t real it is referred to as a psychosis. People suffering a psychotic episode often experience the delusion that their actions are being controlled by others, such as the government or aliens. The physiology behind this break with reality remains a mystery. Thanks to a $1.5 million, four-year, grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), scientists at Michigan State University will conduct a study aimed at identifying the brain mechanisms responsible for causing psychosis.
( Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Psychosis can be caused by physical or mental illness, substance abuse, extreme stress, or trauma. It is a symptom, not an illness. Schizophrenia, which is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves usually involves some form of psychosis. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. About half of those with bipolar disorder experience psychotic episodes-- especially during periods of severe mania or depression.
MSU Neuroscientist Katharine Thakkar suspects the symptom of believing ones actions are being controlled by outside forces may be related to faulty signaling between two regions of the brain: the one involved in producing movement and the one involved in sensation. These signals, known as corollary discharge signals, allow people to predict the sensations they will experience as a result of their actions. A match between the predicted sensations and what the person actually experiences contributes to a sense of agency--the feeling of exerting control over one's own body.
“We believe these corollary discharge signals are what allow us to know that ‘I did something’ versus ‘someone did something to me,’” explained professor Thakkar, lead investigator on the project, in an article for MSU Today. However, if the sensory signals are not transmitted properly, individuals may not understand how their movement or speech came about.
The goals of this research study:
- identify the neural correlates of disrupted corollary discharge (CD) in chronic schizophrenia patients using structural and functional neuroimaging and state-of-the-art connectivity analyses.
- examine whether CD impairments are also present in recent-onset schizophrenia patients, as the conditions for detecting relevant pathophysiological mechanisms are better in this sample.
- investigate whether CD impairments are specific to schizophrenia or represent a trans-diagnostic mechanism of psychosis by including patients with bipolar disorder with a history of psychosis.
To achieve these goals, Thakkar will work with psychiatrist, Eric Achtyes, and David Zhu, an expert in radiology. They will study CD signals that are relayed through the thalamus to the cortex – connections known to be abnormal in people with schizophrenia. They will do this using eye movements as a tool to investigate a potential sensorimotor mechanism in schizophrenia and bipolar patients that is thought to support a subjective sense of agency.
Participants will perform eye movement tasks in an fMRI scanner. Thakkar believes the oculomotor system to an ideal framework for investigating disturbed sensory signals. She hopes this research project will shed light on “the biological processes underlying the self-related disturbances that characterize psychosis,” and eventually lead to this oculomotor approach being used “to identify novel treatment targets and to aid in early identification of people who will later experience psychotic symptoms.”
MSU Researchers to Meet with Laboratory Equipment Suppliers at Bioresearch Product Faire™ Event:Schizophrenia affects 2.2 million Americans; Bipolar disorder 5.7 million. This means the research into psychosis being done at MSU could potentially impact millions of people. And this is only one of 160 MSU research projects funded by the NIH. To conduct all this ground breaking research, scientists need access to the latest in laboratory equipment.
Laboratory equipment suppliers wishing to increase their scientific sales in 2018 should plan to attend The 18th Annual BioResearch Product Faire™ event at Michigan State University on Wednesday, August 8th, 2018.
This is an excellent opportunity for lab suppliers to meet face to face with life science researchers and educate them about current lab and chemical supply products. For more information call 530-272-6675 or click on the link below:
Life science professionals are invited to attend the annual on campus biotechnology trade show for free. Click the button below for additional information or to pre-register.
While in the area, lab suppliers may also want to consider exhibiting the following day at the annual BioResearch Product Faire™ Event at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor on Thursday, August 9th, 2018.