The prediction of psychosis in adolescence

The prediction of psychosis in adolescence

Teenage psychosis

Psychiatrists at the University of Montreal identify adolescents at high risk of psychosis.


  • 1 Early identification of psychosis
  • 2 The prediction of psychosis in the brain
  • 3 New hope for prevention and treatment

Early identification of psychosis

Normally, psychosis appears in adolescence or early adulthood, and about 100,000 young people experience their first psychotic episode during this time. Unfortunately, little is known about how we can prevent psychosis in adolescents who are at high risk.

A Canadian study offers a new hope for early identification and prevention of psychosis. Psychiatrists at the University of Montreal have identified a brain marker that can detect vulnerability to psychosis years before the onset of symptoms.

"Our research reveals that vulnerability to psychosis can be identified during a period of early adolescence, "said Dr. Patricia Conrod, professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal and lead author of the study.

The study, published last week in the American Journal of Psychiatry, has shown that long before a person begins having psychotic episodes, the brain shows a larger emotional response to non-threatening and non-emotional signals.

When this occurs, the brain is giving importance to benign things in the environment that simply do not require an emotional or threat-based reaction. This neurological abnormality can manifest itself in the perception of everyday objects and events, and it may even happen that you imagine things that simply aren't.

The prediction of psychosis in the brain

For the study, the research team has carried out cognitive and brain tests in more than 1,000 European teenagers between 14 and 16 years old. Teenagers have also completed questionnaires with questions about the frequency of experimentation of various psychiatric symptoms.

The researchers isolated a group of 14-year-old teenagers who reported that they were already having occasional psychotic experiences, and found that the brains of these teenagers responded to non-emotional stimuli as if they had a strong emotional importance.

In the group of 16-year-old adolescents, approximately 6% of the participants reported having psychotic symptoms, such as delusions, paranoia, and visual and auditory hallucinations. The researchers found that the brain's reactivity to neutral stimuli at age 14 strongly predicted the onset of future psychotic symptoms at age 16.

The study noted that among risk factor's that intervene in psychotic disorders include: genetics, childhood stress and trauma, inflammation and exposure to neurotoxins, and the use of drugs such as marijuana or amphetamines.

New hope for prevention and treatment

A earlier identification could cause the delay of the onset of psychosis and even prevent some of its most devastating expressions. "Given the morbidity and mortality of psychotic diseases, there is no doubt that we need interventions to prevent their occurrence," said Thomas Insel, former director of the National Institutes of Mental Health. "The early identification of psychosis vulnerability offers doctors a large window of time in which to intervene on risk behaviors and key etiological processes, "concluded Dr. Conrod.