The researchers exploring the “Schizophrenia and neurodevelopmental disorders” theme focus on the causes, course, treatment and prevention of:

  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and Gilles de la Tourette syndrome
  • Autism (research and evaluation)

In Canada, one in a hundred people will be diagnosed with schizophrenia while 3 to 5% of children have an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Effective treatment for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders depends on finding ways to control the symptoms with the appropriate medication, psychotherapeutic and educational interventions, and a healthy lifestyle.

From molecule to patient

Research under this theme is oriented towards:

  • Early intervention, which increases the effectiveness of treatment for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders (Ridha Joober, MD, PhD, Martin Lepage, PhD, Ashok Malla, MD)
  • Identifying the genes linked to schizophrenia, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Natalie Grizenko, MD, Ridha Joober, MD, PhD)
  • Identifying the predisposing factors, such as genetic and environmental alterations, that occur in early brain development (Ridha Joober, MD, PhD, Suzanne King, PhD, Ashok Malla, MD)
  • The interaction of genes and environmental factors (Natalie Grizenko, MD, Ridha Joober, MD, PhD, Suzanne King, PhD, Michael Meaney, PhD)
  • The link between maternal infection during pregnancy and babies’ brain development (Patricia Boksa, PhD, Ridha Joober, MD, PhD, Giamal Luheshi, PhD, Lalit Srivastava, PhD, Sylvain Williams, PhD)
  • The link between prenatal stress and babies’ brain development (Suzanne King, PhD)
  • The link between sleep and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Reut Gruber, PhD)
  • Anatomic and functional changes to the brain detected by mean of a scanner or an electroencephalogram (J. Bruno Debruille, MD, PhD, Martin Lepage, PhD)
  • The etiology of schizophrenia, such as the mechanisms of genetic transmission, structural and functional brain abnormalities and the changes this disease causes in brain chemistry (Brunos Giros, PhD, Graham Boeckh Chair in Schizophrenia at the Douglas Institute)

Research on schizophrenia and neurodevelopmental disorders: key findings

  • Early interventions in the treatment of first-episode psychosis. Ashok Malla, MD, created the Prevention and Early Intervention Program for Psychoses (PEPP-Montréal), which focuses on treating schizophrenia and related disorders. This is the first major program in Quebec to include a dedicated research component.
  • Discovering a mechanism caused by maternal infection during pregnancy that alters the fetal brain and is thought increase the risk of schizophrenia in the offspring.
  • New antipsychotic agents (neuroleptics). The Research Centre was involved in the evaluation of most newer (or "atypical") antipsychotic drugs, which led to better indications for these medications in Canada and abroad.
  • The importance of certain genes in regulating an individual’s attention and focus (e.g. on a task), such as the gene encoding catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), which is responsible for dopamine degradation in the prefrontal cortex (Natalie Grizenko, MD, Ridha Joober, MD, PhD)
  • A mother’s care influences her child’s reaction to stressful situations and the development of brain regions involved in emotional and cognitive responses to stress. (Michael Meaney, PhD)