Promise of Faster, More Accessible Schizophrenia Diagnosis

Posted on June 7, 2018

A new study shows how the hand-held device RETeval may prove to be a more accessible way to diagnose schizophrenia, predict relapse and symptom severity, and assess treatment effectiveness. n the study, researchers used RETeval, a hand-held device developed to record electrical activity from the retina, to replicate and extend prior studies showing that people with schizophrenia had abnormal electrical activity in the retina. The results show the device accurately indicated reduced electrical activity in the retina in multiple cell layers in the participants who had schizophrenia, including in cell types that had not been studied before in this disorder.

According to Steven Silverstein, professor of psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, since the retina is part of the nervous system, what is happening in the retina is likely reflective of what is occurring in the brain. An example would be that certain changes in the retina, like thinning tissue [due to cell loss] or weakening electrical activity, occur alongside loss of brain tissue and reduced brain activity in patients with neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.

In the study, the researchers evaluated 50 participants: 25 with schizophrenia and 25 with no diagnosed psychiatric disorder. In the test, the participants closed one eye and placed the other against the RETeval device, which flashed 10 to 20 white or colored lights of various intensity against a white or colored background. A tiny skin electrode was placed on the skin under the eye to record the retina's electrical activity. The participants were tested in normal light and after sitting in the dark for 10 minutes to assess activity in different types of retinal cells.

This study should help generate further research into developing a test that clinicians such as psychologists, psychiatrists or nurses can use in their offices to diagnose, treat and monitor the condition of people with schizophrenia. However, while the portable device clearly distinguished people with schizophrenia from those without a psychiatric diagnosis, it is still too soon to call this a diagnostic tool.


Source material from Science Daily

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