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Wednesday, 14 June, 2000, 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK
Test 'to transform schizophrenia treatment'
Mental illness
One in 100 people suffer from schizophrenia
The treatment of schizophrenia could be transformed by a new diagnosis test, according to psychiatrists.

The new Pre-pulse Inhibitor test measures a person's response to sudden loud noises and can be used to distinguish between early and later onset of the illness.

It measures the way people blink when they are startled by the loud noise. This is used to assess the mind's unconscious ability to process information.

Many people in the early stages of schizophrenia have demonstrated a severe information processing problem.

At the moment, there is no simple diagnosis test for schizophrenia.

Psychiatrists generally rely on identifying a range of symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, memory problems and attention difficulties.



Identifying biological markers of schizophrenia will become like looking for a needle in a single haystack

Dr Tonmoy Sharma, Institute of Psychiatry

There has also been no method of objectively identifying early onset of schizophrenia, which is more serious and tends to affect people with a family history of the condition.

Progress

Writing in the latest issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, the researchers say the new test may lead to progress in identifying those at risk of developing schizophrenia.

They suggest that people with early onset schizophrenia may need a different treatment approach.

Dr Tony Sharma, from the Institute of Psychiatry at Maudsley Hospital, London, said the test should make it easier to find the hallmarks of schizophrenia.

"Identifying biological markers of schizophrenia will become like looking for a needle in a single haystack rather than searching for that needle in an entire field."

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