Identifying the emotional, cognitive and biological correlates of schizophrenia


Objective measures of emotion, cognition and brain function are the best predictors of real-world outcomes in schizophrenia, and these projects are aimed at identifying these markers. 


Professor Lea Williams

Research Location

Westmead - Westmead Institute for Medical Research

Program Type



Schizophrenia is associated with significant social, psychological and occupational dysfunction which is not only distressing for the patients and their family, but also results in substantial costs. Research has made very little progress in predicting the course of illness and functional outcome in schizophrenia. Early detection and intervention are key factors for a better functional outcome but currently there are no agreed objective markers of the early onset of the illness. One of the primary reasons for the dearth of clinically-relevant markers is poor understanding of the biological underpinnings of functional outcome. It is increasingly recognized that impairment in both general and social cognitive processes may underlie psychosocial dysfunction in schizophrenia. Abnormal integration and synchrony between brain regions may be the biological basis of these impairments. Therefore the specific focus of the project is to use social and general cognitive tasks and/or brain function measures to identify objective markers of these deficits in schizophrenia and their capacity for predicting functional outcome. At BDC, there is the opportunity to focus on the first episode of schizophrenia. Identification of predictors of functional outcome using brain connectivity measures will help in linking brain mechanism with outcome and this will not only help in diagnosis and management of the disease but will also identify targets for functional improvement. Thus, this work will provide an essential basis for future development of therapeutic interventions that can target the specific types of deficits experienced by individuals with schizophrenia. This project(s) may also shed some light on resolving heterogeneity of schizophrenia and be helpful in identifying specific impairments in schizophrenia relative to other psychiatric disorders.

Additional Information

As part of this project candidates will have the opportunity to be trained to collect data using cognitive tests and brain imaging techniques. Candidates will also have the opportunity to be trained to use sophisticated statistical packages such as SPM, and SPSS. This project will also involve collection of clinical rating scales and assessments with schizophrenia patients, under the supervision psychiatric researchers.

The Brain Dynamics Centre
The goal of the Brain Dynamics Centre research is to shed light on the workings of the human brain, and the cause and treatment of brain-related disorders

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Schizophrenia, First-episode, General and social cognition, Brain imaging, Neural basis, Functional outcome, Emotion, Social functioning, Behavioural & psychiatric disorders, Neuroscience & psychology

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 244

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