Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science

Dissociation in first-episode psychosis

In schizophrenia, multiple aspects of consciousness become dysfunctional. Alongside the cardinal features of hallucinations and delusions, people with schizophrenia may often experience a feeling of dissociation from their bodies or from the world around them. For example, they may report feelings of depersonalisation, in which they feel detached from their mind and body, or derealisation, in which the world seems somehow altered and unreal.

In a longitudinal project conducted in collaboration with colleagues at the School of Psychology and Sussex Partnership Trust, we are investigating the neuroscientific basis of dissociation in people with first-episode psychosis, and the impact that such dissociative experiences may have on their long-term outcome.

Study participants are completing questionnaire assessments, and a series of structural and functional MRI brain scans. During fMRI, participants perform an interoception task that measures their sensitivity to internal bodily responses. We expect that performance on this task will relate to people’s experience of dissociative symptoms. We also aim to determine whether performance on this interoception task and related neuroimaging measures may be predictive of patients’ long-term outcomes, such as whether they experience further episodes of psychosis.

This is one of our key translational projects within the clinical strand of research at the Sackler Centre, which builds on previous work on interoception, and the work of Sussex colleagues.

For more information about this research project and to discuss referrals, please contact: Geoff Davies (E: geoff.davies@sussex.ac.uk).

People

Hugo Critchley, Geoff Davies, Simon Evans, Sarah Garfinkel, Kathy Greenwood, Nick Medford, Charlotte Rae, Anil Seth