Title of Grant Funded:
Multifamily Psychoeducation and Cognitive Remediation for First-Episode Psychosis
University of Arizona scientist Dr. Nicholas Breitborde, founder of Early Psychosis Intervention Center or EPICenter, at the U of A says the Institute of Mental Health Research pilot grant launched a study from which he expects great things to emerge from. His study’s goal is to improve care for patients who are experiencing his or her first episode of a schizophrenia or bipolar with major or depression with psychotic episodes. The hypothesis he is testing is that when the patient enters a multi-family group intervention that includes care-giving relatives. The group sorts out warning signs, coping mechanisms and problem-solving scenarios to help the person with psychosis. Through this group environment, the patients and their families are often able to develop strategies to help the patient along. Breitborde explains that there is 30 years of research behind the family group component. “We know it works.” Brietborde explains the second component of this study is what makes it unique. This is the addition of cognitive remediation offered to the patients in conjunction with the family group scenarios. Often, patients with first onset of psychosis, still experience relapses, even when they are immersed in the family groups. Breitborde’s thought is that illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar are accompanied by cognitive deficits in memory, understanding and problem solving. “If someone has problem solving deficits, the intervention will pair cognitive remediation for problem solving with the family group intervention.” He explains that this has begun to be studied. In fact, in previous studies, it has been noted that in one study, the remediation changed brain activation in the frontal part or language/problem-solving portion of the brain. The thought is that the lack of activation may be the underlying issues of these patients. The cognitive remediation activities offered are computerized and include video, games and puzzles designed to improve various cognitive skills. Breitborde’s study seeks to determine if this remediation lessen the incidence of relapses. Half of the patients in group family intervention will receive cognitive remediation and half will not. The former Yale scientist says IMHR’s funding was “incredibly helpful” and it is his belief that his study’s data will be compelling enough to attract additional funding for the future.