Finding the tipping point into psychosis

Sep 5 2012

A University of Newcastle researcher is calling on young people to volunteer for a project to improve understanding of the brain’s development.

Renate Thienel, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Priority Research Centre for Translational Neuroscience and Mental Health, is completing a four-year study collecting brain wave data on the maturation of a ‘healthy’ brain.

The results will be compared to existing data from people with an increased risk of developing psychosis, to find the ‘tipping point’ into psychosis/schizophrenia.

“There is a significant body of research on patients once they have transitioned into psychosis, but as yet there is no comparative data mapping the normal development in young brains,” Dr Thienel said.

“My research will examine how the brain wave pattern matures in a ‘healthy’ brain. This can then be compared with the pattern of someone who has an elevated risk of developing psychosis. We hope that this research will help with earlier identification of those at risk, in order to begin treatment as soon as possible.”

Approximately one in 100 Australians have or will develop schizophrenia during their lifetime. Schizophrenia affects the brain and causes changes in a person’s thinking, emotions and behaviour. The debilitating disease is a major cause of suicide, and costs the Australian community approximately $2.6 billion each year in both direct health costs and loss of productivity.*

Dr Thienel is calling for volunteers aged 6 – 25 years who are in good health and have no prior neurological or mental health issues. Volunteers will be asked to listen to acoustic stimuli while their brain waves are recorded via a head cap. They will also complete a series of cognitive tests to assess functions such as memory retention.

Those interested in participating should contact Dr Thienel on 02 4033 5729 or via email:

Dr Thienel researches in collaboration with the Hunter Medical Research Institute. HMRI is a collaboration between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.

* Data from the Schizophrenia Research Institute

Media contact: Tess Campbell, Media and Public Relations Officer, University of Newcastle, (02) 4921 8714.