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Can psychosis be detected using fMRI whilst watching “Alice in Wonderland”?

An fMRI study allowed researchers to distinguish patients with first-episode psychosis from controls based on their brain activity while watching “Alice in Wonderland” movie.

Researchers in Finland used the movie “Alice in Wonderland”, as an information-rich stimulus, and monitored the brain region known as the ‘precuneus’. This brain area is considered the “observing ego” and is connected with memory, self-awareness and consciousness. Findings revealed significant differences between patients with psychosis and controls within the precuneus brain region, allowing researchers to correctly classify 80% of the psychosis patients. This precuneus area, a hub of integration of self- and episodic-memory-related information, may play an important role in information processing for patients with psychosis. This brain scanning method may in future help with earlier screening for at-risk populations.

Questions arising from this research include:

  • How do patients, even after their first episode, process information in a different way?
  • What is it about a movie, such as "Alice in Wonderland", that activates the precuneus differently for individuals and may relate to participant’s history?

It may be that patients with psychosis view this movie as more/less relevant to their own lives than a healthy control.

Their findings will be presented at the 28th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Conference in Amsterdam.

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By: Abigail Christine Wright
Last updated: Thursday, 3 September 2015