Many psychiatric illnesses are associated with disturbing and sometimes dangerous symptoms and behaviors. Examples include suicidal behavior, self-injury, and psychosis (when a person loses touch with reality and may have delusional beliefs or respond to auditory hallucinations).
Research confirms that the symptoms and behaviors observed in psychiatric illnesses are the result of abnormal information processing in the brain, which is related to changes in the structure and functioning of brain networks. But this research is in its infancy and there is much to learn, especially in terms of how brain network changes occur during adolescence and early adulthood and whether or not they can be modified by successful treatments. There also remains much to learn about how best to treat these brain network changes in a way that provides lasting and sustained benefit for the individual.
Yet, in order to develop innovative scientific approaches that can help individuals recover from psychiatric illnesses, researchers must perform studies with adolescents and young adults who have serious symptoms and behaviors.
These studies require parents and participants to invest their time and effort, and typically require the support of the individual's treatment providers, who are not always comfortable with the idea of research.
According to Dr. Sophia Vinogradov, “When performing studies that focus on suicidal behavior, self-injury, or psychosis, the researcher and her department can be at high risk for adverse publicity and misunderstanding if one of their participants has a bad outcome.”
Join Dr. Vinogradov to learn about the findings that have emerged from the Department of Psychiatry’s current studies, and the benefits and risks of performing this kind of research.
Sophia Vinogradov, MD, is the Donald W. Hastings Endowed Chair in Psychiatry and Department Head of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Prior to coming to the University, she was the Vice Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
Vinogradov received her MD from Wayne State University School of Medicine, obtained her psychiatry residency training at Stanford University School of Medicine, where she served as Chief Resident, and completed a Psychiatric Neurosciences Research Fellowship at the Palo Alto VA Medical Center and Stanford University.
She currently directs a translational clinical neuroscience laboratory that focuses on cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia. In collaboration with basic scientists, she studies neuroscience-informed computerized cognitive training exercises for patients with schizophrenia that aim to drive enduring plastic changes in cortical processing. Vinogradov uses MEG and fMRI methods to probe the brain changes in both early sensory processing and higher-order cognitive operations in subjects who undergo this cognitive training.
More recently, she has begun to apply these methods to the study of adolescents who are prodromal for schizophrenia and young adults in early psychosis, with the goal of delaying or preventing the onset of a deteriorating psychiatric illness. Her work has contributed to a growing interest in the use of computerized “brain training” to treat some of the brain information processing abnormalities of psychiatric illnesses.
A recent participant at the White House conference on Video Games to Enhance Attention and Well-Being, she is the recipient of the 2017 National Alliance on Mental Illness Scientific Research Award, which is presented to those who inspire hope through research.
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