The revolutionary growth of the cognitive neurosciences offers enormous promise for understanding the mechanisms underlying antipsychotic interventions. The overarching goal of the Research Methods Core is to support the application of state-of-the-art neurocognitive and neuroimaging methodologies that may help clarify the mechanisms underlying effective intervention in schizophrenia such as the prediction of treatment response, functional outcome, and adverse events in a unique cohort of first episode patients with minimal or no prior antipsychotic drug exposure. Compared to conventional treatment targets such as clinical symptomatology, cognitive neuroscience methods theoretically are more closely representative of brain dysfunction, and should ultimately be superior: (1) in classifying individuals who will benefit differentially from specific treatments, and some day, in the selection, dosing and titration of treatments;(2) in identifying the stable, enduring features of pathology that are most likely to predict distinctive outcomes, with implications for disposition and rehabilitative efforts;(3) in identifying neurobiological mechanisms that mediate treatment response with current, second-generation antipsychotics;and finally, (4) in serving as treatment targets themselves, possibly leading to the next generation of rationally-derived treatments. Moreover, information derived from cognitive neuroscience methods in well-controlled clinical trials will further provide crucial feedback to basic neuroscience research about the mechanisms underlying effective treatment. The Research Methods Core provides infrastructure support for the individual research projects, which include assessment of neurocognitive functioning, region-of-interest volumetric approaches, diffusion tensor imaging, cortical surface mapping and positron emission tomography to predict treatment response and multidimensional outcome measures.
The specific aims of the Core include: (1) to integrate individual projects within the Center;(2) to develop innovative methods for data analysis and image processing;(3) to communicate findings and train investigators in neuropsychological and neuroimaging methods and (4) to maintain high standards of reliability for individual research projects. Mechanisms by which the Core accomplishes these aims will be addressed in turn, after a brief overview of the three major platforms for cognitive neuroscience research within the ZHH CIDAR.
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