Milestones

Milestones

2015

The head office of the Schizophrenia Research Institute completed its relocation to Neuroscience Research Australia’s (NeuRA) Margarete Ainsworth building in Randwick following the announcement of a merger between the two institutes. Soon to follow will be the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank as well as the Schizophrenia Library.

Associate Professors Murray Cairns (above) and Melissa Green, along with Professor Vaughan Carr, were awarded an $800,000 grant by New South Wales Health to sequence the entire genome of 500 participants from the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank.

2014

A study conducted by Dr Kristin Laurens found that children at risk for developing schizophrenia not only experience a higher number of stressful events in childhood, but also respond to them differently, often leading to greater or longer-lasting feelings of distress. The findings suggest that helping children to learn better coping skills early in life might improve not only their childhood health and wellbeing, but also give them skills to help manage new challenges and stresses associated with becoming an adolescent.

Prof Ulli Schall was awarded a grant by the Hunter Medical Research Institute to develop a health care referral system that ensures young people have access to specialists that are experienced in assisting those with an emerging mental illness.

Cognitive Behavioural Relating Therapy (CBRT) is developed by psychologist Dr Georgie Paulik. It aims to improve how people relate to the voices they hear, as well as other people socially, and decrease the amount of distress caused by persistent voice-hearing.

Dr Katrina Green is awarded a $10,000 grant from SunCorp Brighter Futures Program to support her study into liraglutide, an anti-diabetic drug that can be used as an adjunct treatment to antipsychotics to counterbalance the side effects of high blood sugar and type II diabetes. Diabetes has also been shown to exacerbate cognitive deficits in people with schizophrenia, so there is hope that using liraglutide as an adjunct treatment can also improve impairments in attention and memory.

Research led by Assoc Prof Melissa Green found that there were clusters of individuals – a striking 52 to 58 percent of individuals with schizophrenia and schizoaffective diagnoses, respectively, and 43 percent of those diagnosed with Bipolar-1 disorder – who reported childhood experiences reflecting clinically significant levels of abuse or neglect. She reasoned that these cases might show a different pathway to illness than those without a history of trauma, and that this might be evident in distinct brain disturbances among cases with and without a history of childhood maltreatment.

Norbert Schweizer becomes chairman of the Institute’s board.

2013

A new study, led by Prof Cyndi Shannon Weickert, examined the NMDA receptor (which is made up of different parts) in the brain of people with schizophrenia and a comparison group of people without the illness. Professor Shannon Weickert and her team found that one part of the NMDA receptor, called NR1, was reduced in the brains of people with schizophrenia relative to the comparison group. They also found that another part of the NMDA receptor (called NR2C), was also reduced in the brains of people with schizophrenia. Together, these may lead to a lower number of NMDA receptors in the brains of people with schizophrenia and block information flow.

Findings published by Institute scientists in the journal of Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews showed that when metabotropic glutamate receptor 5, or mGluR5, is knocked out or masked in animal models they display schizophrenia-like symptoms such as difficulties with learning, memory and sensory gating, which is the ability to filter out unnecessary information from the immediate environment. This may indicate that if drugs were to bind to this receptor and improve its functioning, symptoms such as disordered thinking caused by poor sensory gating, depression, social isolation and poor memory may be improved in people with schizophrenia.

A meta-analysis of studies, performed by PhD student Sandra Matheson, found that adults with schizophrenia who keep to themselves often did so as children, but that social skills training can be an effective way to overcome any difficulties presented by socialising with others.

A study, published by Dr Mei Han and Prof Xu-Feng Huang in the scientific journal PLoS One, found that people with both diabetes and schizophrenia suffered greater cognitive difficulties than people who had only schizophrenia or only diabetes. These findings indicate that the memory deficits found in schizophrenia could, in part, reflect disturbed glucose regulation, and that improvement of glucose metabolism could improve these deficits. Preclinical studies, led by Institute-supported Prof Huang, have also indicated that the compound teasaponin, which is found in green tea, and DHA, which can be found in fish oil, could be useful as adjunct treatments in reducing chronic brain inflammation that is linked with the causes of obesity, Type II diabetes and cognitive impairment.

2012

Dr Murray Cairns identifies micro RNA molecules in the blood that could be used to identify if a person is at risk of developing schizophrenia. A blood test could be only five to 10 years away.

Prof Cyndi Shannon Weickert makes headlines internationally with the discovery that the immune system may cause inflammation in the brains of people with schizophrenia, which may open a new pathway to treatment.

Prof Xu-Feng Huang identifies why a popularly used antipsychotic causes patients to put on a large amount of weight and increases their likelihood of suffering from Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. He is currently working on finding an active compound that will reverse these drastic side effects.

 

2011

Chris McDiven, AM, appointed new Chair of the Schizophrenia Research Institute’s board.

NSW Child Development Study commences. It will follow 80,000 children from birth to adolescence to identify vulnerability and resilience factors that may be related to later onset of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia.

Prof Ulrich Schall leads the five-year Minds in Transition (MinT) study, a project that investigates why young people transition from an ‘at-risk mental state’ to a first episode of psychosis.

Prof Cyndi Shannon Weickert, Macquarie Group Foundation Chair of Schizophrenia Research, is appointed as an advisor to the international online Schizophrenia Research Forum. The forum is designed to foster international collaboration and share research news to assist the forum community in their common quest to further schizophrenia research.

The Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank has plays a key role in a global study that investigated genetic variants associated with schizophrenia. The study replicated findings from previous genetic research and made new discoveries.

2010

Commencement of the Institute’s first clinical trial.

Opening of access to the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank for researchers.

2009

Appointment of Prof Vaughan Carr to the Chair of Schizophrenia Epidemiology and Population Health, a joint initiative of the Schizophrenia Research Institute, University of New South Wales & NSW Health.

2008

Discovery of rare genetic abnormality affecting estrogen receptor linked to schizophrenia.

Identification of altered levels of micro RNA in schizophrenia-affected brains, presenting an exciting new target for schizophrenia researchers.

2007

New computer-based remediation tool demonstrates improved recognition of facial expressions of emotion in schizophrenia.

2006

Launch of the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank, the largest ever national brain research project in schizophrenia, which is collecting wide-ranging data on patients with schizophrenia and controls to support large-scale research programs.

Appointment of Australia’s first chair of Schizophrenia, Prof Cyndi Shannon Weickert – the Macquarie Group Foundation Chair of Schizophrenia Research is a joint initiative of the Schizophrenia Research Institute, University of New South Wales, Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, the Macquarie Group Foundation & NSW Health.

Discovery that blood lymphocytes can be used to identify distinct gene expression profiles within schizophrenia.

2005

Discovery through new functional MRI scanning of impaired brain function and reduced regional cortical thickness in brain of first-episode schizophrenia.

2004

Similar altered styles of interpreting facial emotions shown in first degree relatives of schizophrenia patients, which may be a marker in diagnosis.

Evidence that visual scan path dysfunction may be a trait marker in familial transmission of schizophrenia by demonstrating similar, but attenuated, restricted visual scan paths in response to facial emotions in first degree biological relatives of schizophrenia patients.

2003

Suggested link between chronic cannabis users and first episode schizophrenia patients shown through reduced brain activity during planning task.

1995

Discovery of differences in the brain’s auditory processing (known as mismatch negativity), which may be a biological marker of vulnerability to schizophrenia.

Please visit our research database, Brain Works, for information on every Schizophrenia Research Institute supported study.

Page last updated: 14:21  29 July 2015