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Test Predicts Psychosis in Teens

Unusual Thoughts, Family History Linked to Risk

Risk Factors for Psychosis continued...

Cannon says other changes in perception, such as hearing buzzing or crackling sounds or seeing images that quickly disappear, often predict the imminent onset of psychosis.

Among the study participants, 35% who exhibited one risk factor identified in the predictive model developed a psychotic illness within 30 months. Those who had two or three additional risk factors developed psychosis within the same time period 68% to 80% of the time.

The NIMH-funded study is published in the January issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Earlier Treatment, Better Outcomes

If the findings are confirmed, the prediction model could help doctors identify those at risk for psychotic illness much sooner so that these people can be monitored closely for signs of active psychosis.

That is important because early treatment with antipsychotic drugs has been shown to be associated with much more favorable outcomes, Heinssen tells WebMD.

But no one is suggesting that the drugs be used in patients who have not yet developed active psychosis.

"Treatment should begin as soon as a person crosses that threshold from pre-psychosis to active psychosis," Heinssen says. "But active psychosis is often present for weeks and even months before drugs are given."

Cannon, Heinssen, and colleagues also hope to move beyond symptoms to identify biological markers that indicate a high risk for psychotic illness.

Studies are planned or are under way examining the chemical changes within the brain, hormonal changes, and changes in cognitive function in people with psychotic disease.

Just as cholesterol and blood pressure are now used to assess heart disease risk, these measures may one day help physicians determine someone's risk for psychosis, Cannon and Heinssen tell WebMD.

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