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New Hope For Schizophrenia Sufferers

August 4, 2005
Research Australia
Key research from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) could lead to the first early diagnostic tool for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Key research from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) could leadto the first early diagnostic tool for schizophrenia and bipolardisorder.

"At the moment we don't have any biological tests for theseconditions," said one of the authors, UNSW Associate Professor ofPsychiatry, Philip Ward, who is based at Liverpool Hospital'sSchizophrenia Research Unit. "Our research could eventually lead to asimple, cost-effective and safe way to distinguish patients withschizophrenia from those suffering bipolar disorder. This is importantbecause a patient can get treatment sooner and hopefully have a betteroutcome."

Auditory recovery cycle dysfunction in schizophrenia: A studyusing event-related potentials has just been published in theinternational journal Psychiatry Research.

"Sixty percent of patients with schizophrenia have auditoryhallucinations," said co-author, UNSW PhD candidate Nathan Clunas. "Sowe decided to look at a particular brain wave-form which measuresattention and attention deficits that can be found in these patients."

The researchers recorded the brain waves associated with pairsof sounds in 17 patients with schizophrenia. Subjects heard the soundsthrough a set of headphones, while performing a visual distractiontask. The patients' results were compared with those of a sex andage-matched healthy volunteer group.

"We were looking at what occurs about 100 milliseconds afterthe sounds were presented," said Nathan Clunas. "The distinctivepattern observed in healthy volunteers was disrupted in patients withschizophrenia.

"These findings may help us understand the problems patientswith schizophrenia experience in focussing attention on everydayevents," said Nathan Clunas.

The researchers are currently analysing the results ofpatients with bipolar disorder, to see whether different patterns ofresponse to sounds are seen in these patients.

"Depending on the final results in the bipolar group, we maybe on the way to developing a biological test," said Professor Ward.


Nathan Clunas' PhD research was supported by an Ian Scott Fellowship from the Australian Rotary Health Research Fund.

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