Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that causes a fragmentation between thoughts, fantasy, and actions, leading to faulty perceptions, inappropriate actions, delusions, hallucinations, and social withdrawal. A schizophrenic person usually gets overwhelmed and locked up in fantasy, thoughts, and emotions, with no sense of reality. It is a psychological, genetic, and environmental disorder. The cause of the disorder has not been particularly identified. However, common causes like depression, emotional havoc, changing environment, or genetic condition can cause or trigger schizophrenia. It is a chronic disorder with no cure and only treatments.
Since there is no defined cause of schizophrenia, it is hard to diagnose if a person is schizophrenic before 45 years of age. Often, the case is that the person affected never realises that he or she is schizophrenic at an early (teenage) stage. The changes that schizophrenia causes at its first stage are only slight (emotional and physical) deviations which seem completely normal like lack of sleep, affected career, or studies or changes in physical health. This schizophrenia when left undiagnosed at an early stage, develops into a dangerous mental condition at later stages, around 30 to 45 years of age. Being a result of such sporadic meddling of psychological, genetic, and environmental factors in normal human life, how can a person be saved from the uncertainty of schizophrenia?
Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, a neuroscientist and a psychology professor at Northeastern University, has developed a brain imaging technique to study and diagnose the patterns of schizophrenia in a schizophrenic person at an early stage. The brain imaging technique records various networks of activities in the brain and identifies an unusual pattern that might be an early sign of a clinical disorder. Similarly, this method of research can detect an irregular pattern triggered by a psychotic episode that causes schizophrenia in a person. In an article What if pictures of your brain could detect schizophrenia, Laura Castañón writes,
“The study focused on 158 patients at the Shanghai Mental Health Center who had experienced early symptoms and were considered “high risk” for developing schizophrenia, as well as 93 individuals with no signs of psychosis. The researchers took brain images of all of them and then tracked their progress. Over the next year, 23 of the high-risk individuals were diagnosed with schizophrenia after some sort of psychotic episode.”
Whitefield-Gabrielli believes that this brain imaging technique can be used to diagnose early symptoms of schizophrenia in children and change the course of the disease and hence protect their future. She says, “There are many types of interventions that, if it’s detected early enough, might be very helpful. They may even prevent developing the disorder.”