The proposed study aims to discover the neural circuit abnormalities contributing to amotivation in schizophrenia, and identify quantitative behavioral and imaging measures of amotivation that can accelerate future translational and therapeutic research. A pathological loss of motivation is one of the "negative symptoms" of schizophrenia, which involve deficits in emotional and social capacities. Together with other negative symptoms such as anhedonia (reduced pleasure), asociality (reduced social drive), and reduced expressivity, amotivation contributes strongly to the disability caused by schizophrenia. Unlike positive symptoms (hallucinations, delusions) which are generally responsive to antipsychotic medications, negative symptoms including amotivation respond poorly to current treatments, and therefore constitute a major unmet therapeutic need in psychiatry. Despite this importance, amotivation in schizophrenia has been understudied and the brain abnormalities causing this deficit remain largely unknown. Validation and application of laboratory motivation paradigms in schizophrenia has lagged behind research in hedonic and emotion- processing deficits, and narrowing this gap is a major aim of this proposal. Over four years, the proposed study will evaluate motivation in 80 adults with schizophrenia with a wide range of negative symptoms, as well as 40 healthy control subjects.
The specific aims are: 1) To quantify motivational deficits in schizophrenia using translational laboratory tasks, 2) To identif neural circuit dysfunction associated with motivation deficits in schizophrenia, and 3) To define a complex whole-brain phenotype predicting amotivation severity. To achieve these aims we will apply novel behavioral and functional imaging tasks together with advanced multivariate pattern analysis techniques. This study will provide a detailed brain-behavior pattern predicting amotivation severity which will help advance the understanding, treatment, and prevention of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a complex brain disorder that imposes heavy costs on individuals suffering with this illness, as well as their families and society. The disorder causes abnormalities in emotional systems including brain motivation circuits, which strongly contribute to disability and which have no known treatments. The proposed study focuses on understanding the biology of these motivational deficits and accurately measuring their severity, in order to accelerate the development and testing of new and more effective treatments.
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