Research and Outlook
Present and Future Research Directions
In addition to the development of new treatments, NIMH research is focusing
on the relationships among genetic, behavioral, developmental, social and other
factors to identify the cause or causes of schizophrenia. Utilizing increasingly
precise imaging techniques, scientists are studying the structure and function
of the living brain. New molecular tools and modern statistical analyses are
enabling researchers to close in on the particular genes that affect brain development
or brain circuitry involved in schizophrenia. Scientists are continuing to investigate
possible prenatal factors, including infections, that may affect brain development
and contribute to the development of schizophrenia.
WHAT IS THE OUTLOOK?
The outlook for people with schizophrenia has improved over the last 25 years.
Although no totally effective therapy has yet been devised, it is important
to remember that many people with the illness improve enough to lead independent,
satisfying lives. As we learn more about the causes and treatments of schizophrenia,
we should be able to help more patients achieve successful outcomes.
Studies that have followed people with schizophrenia for long periods, from
the first episode to old age, reveal that a wide range of outcomes is possible.
When large groups of patients are studied, certain factors tend to be associated
with a better outcome for example, a pre-illness history of normal social,
school, and work adjustment. However, the current state of knowledge, does not
allow for a sufficiently accurate prediction of long-term outcome.
Given the complexity of schizophrenia, the major questions about this disorder
its cause or causes, prevention, and treatment must be addressed
with research. The public should beware of those offering "the cure"
for (or "the cause" of) schizophrenia. Such claims can provoke unrealistic
expectations that, when unfulfilled, lead to further disappointment. Although
progress has been made toward better understanding and treatment of schizophrenia,
continued investigation is urgently needed. As the lead Federal agency for research
on mental disorders, NIMH conducts and supports a broad spectrum of mental illness
research from molecular genetics to large-scale epidemiologic studies of populations.
It is thought that this wide-ranging research effort, including basic studies
on the brain, will continue to illuminate processes and principles important
for understanding the causes of schizophrenia and for developing more effective
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