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Reduced brain activity relating to cognitive control in individuals with high risk of psychosis

Adolescence is an important period for cognitive and emotional development, including the development of cognitive control to coordinate competing demands to complete tasks and goals. However, little is known about the role that cognitive control and associated functional brain circuits play in the development of psychosis. 

Using brain scanning facilities, Bradley S. Peterson, director of the Institute for the Developing Mind at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and colleagues have shown that lower levels of conflict-related brain activity are associated with a higher risk for later psychosis. Over 100 participants took part in this study involving performing cognitive flexibility tasks and other functions whilst in the brain scanner. The researchers detected reduced conflict-related functional activity in several cortical areas of the young people at high risk of psychosis. Including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; a functional control region of the brain with a long period of maturation leading into adolescence, and dorsal striatum; involved in reward and decision-making. Lower levels was associated with the individuals at high risk of psychosis, compared with higher levels associated with control condition who had better social and role outcome. 

"We interpret these findings as evidence that conflict-related brain activation represents an adaptive process that is diminished in individuals at high risk for psychosis, though further study is needed," Peterson concluded.

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By: Abigail Christine Wright
Last updated: Tuesday, 29 September 2015