Schizophrenia. Only a miniscule one percent of the population, on average, is effected by this neurological disorder. Equally miniscule is the general understanding of the disorder. One aspect of the experiment conducted by Sarah Hart, Joshua Bizzell, Mary McMahon, Hongbin Gu, Diana Perkins, and Aysenil Berger was to broaden and deepen the understanding of schizophrenia as well as defining symptom markers to more easily identify the disease in children and adolescents who have a familial high risk for schizophrenia.
To begin, the major purpose of this study, defined by the experimenters, was to identify functional diversity amongst the executive and emotional processing areas of the brain, which maturate with cortical areas of the brain in adolescents. Adolescents being the age in which symptoms of schizophrenia tend to emerge, the naturally arising inquiry becomes that of: do individuals with a familial high risk for schizophrenia show a development of the disorder through differences in fronto-striatal-limbic activity when compared to those who do not have a familial high risk? The answer to this question is equivalent to the hypothesis for the experiment. Given that a widely considered cause of schizophrenia is inefficient cortical -processing, the experimenters believe the participants who have a familial high risk would present signs of hyperactivation in the fronto-striatal-limbic circuitry relative to the control group (those who do not have a familial high risk), due to the brain compensating for loss of brain tissue.
Secondly, in order to conduct the experiment, the experimenters had to operationally define who someone with a familial high risk for schizophrenia exactly was. Familial high risk was defined as having a first-degree family member with an official diagnosis of schizophrenia or a schizoaffective disorder. Next, the experimenters had to define limitations regarding which individuals would be able to participate in the experiment based on the parameters of the study. The limitations for the experiment group included: no participant in the study conducted being related to another participant, no current diagnosis of psychotic disorder, bipolar affective disorder, central nervous system disorder, mental retardation, or current treatment using anti-psychotic medication. Along with this, limitations for the control group included: no history of any psychiatric disorder, no relatives that were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, or substance abuse disorder. Limitations for fMRI use, allowing the experimenters to monitor and analyze brain activity during the experiments, also were defined to prevent participants who were pregnant or had a presence of metal in their body from participating.
The experimenters used 21 individuals who were age, gender, and ethnically matched along with 21 children who followed the same criteria, and 21 control group subjects. These participants were then tested for positive, negative, and...