Imaging the brain to detect schizophrenia

Building on her groundbreaking work on facial recognition and neuroimaging, Talma Hendler is hoping to make early diagnosis a reality by identifying the physical markers of mental illness — particularly schizophrenia — inside the brain.

MARCH 12, 2009--Like Russell Crowe's character in the movie A Beautiful Mind, life is often difficult for the 2.4 million Americans with schizophrenia. A late or incorrect diagnosis and the lack of effective treatment options can destroy a sufferer's quality of life. Schizophrenia usually emerges between the ages of 18 and 30, but diagnosis before the disease manifests could be the key to developing more successful treatments, says Talma Hendler of Tel Aviv University's Department of Psychology (Tel Aviv, Israel; www.telavivuniv.org ).

Until now, detecting mental illness before symptoms appear has been nearly impossible. Building on her groundbreaking work on facial recognition and neuroimaging, Hendler is hoping to make early diagnosis a reality by identifying the physical markers of mental illness — particularly schizophrenia — inside the brain.

For years, the mechanism behind the abnormal social behavior that characterizes many schizophrenic patients has been a mystery. To study the physical manifestation of schizophrenia, Hendler used brain imaging to illustrate differences between the brain activity of schizophrenic patients and healthy adults.

Her work is part of the Functional Human Brain Mapping project at Tel Aviv University. Hendler's findings, published recently in the journal Human Brain Mapping, showed that when presented with photographs of emotional faces with bizarre characteristics, the brains of schizophrenic patients were much less reactive than established norms. For more information, go to: http://www.aftau.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8631

-- Posted by Conard Holton, Vision Systems Design, www.vision-systems.com

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