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New research shows promise for treating schizophrenia

Wednesday, January 29, 2020 - 11:31am
Alan Flurry

A new psychology study confirms that targeting one particular symptom of schizophrenia has a positive effect on other symptoms, offering significant promise for treating an aspect of schizophrenia that currently has no pharmaceutical options:

A team led by Gregory Strauss published a study confirming that successfully treating the symptom avolition—reduced motivation—has a positive effect on other negative symptoms of schizophrenia. The results, published in Schizophrenia Bulletin, were based on a phase 2b trial of the compound roluperidone by Minerva Neurosciences.

“There’s a lot of hope that Minerva’s phase 3 trial will show a similar improvement in negative symptoms,” said Strauss, assistant professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “This could be the first drug that receives an indication for negative symptoms of schizophrenia from the Food and Drug Administration, which is perhaps the biggest need in the field of psychiatry. It would be a monumental benefit to the lives of people with schizophrenia.”

Schizophrenia is the leading medical cause of functional disability worldwide, according to several population-based studies of health. People with functional disability struggle to hold a job, build social relationships and maintain the independent activities of daily living. In the U.S., it can also refer to receiving government-supported disability funds.

“The government spends a tremendous amount of money every year on functional disability,” Strauss said. “Negative symptoms are the strongest predictor of functional disability, but no medication has received FDA approval for treating them. Therefore, they are a critical treatment target.”

Strauss has published more than 125 studies exploring the symptoms of schizophrenia. A 2018 paper published in JAMA Psychiatry demonstrated that negative symptoms are not a singular construct, as has long been assumed, but reflect five distinct domains: avolition; anhedonia (reduced pleasure); asociality (reduction in social activity); blunted affect (reduction in outwardly expressed emotion in the face and voice); and alogia (reduced speech). Each domain constitutes a separate treatment target.

More here. This builds on earlier work by Strauss and colleagues using new techniques and technology to diagnose symptoms earlier. Great and valuable public health research.


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