Early life stress and the etiopathogenesis of auditory hallucinations in young people

This research project aims to look at the relationship between experiencing stressful life events during childhood and experiencing psychotic-like symptoms (like hearing voices that other people can't hear, for example) in adolescence. Researchers have already shown that there is a relationship between these two experiences but, up until now, no one has been able to find out exactly why and how stressful life events in childhood put some young people at increased risk of developing psychotic-like symptoms in their adolescent years.
The team involved in this project will use information on over 8,000 young people in Ireland to examine whether the timing, duration or types of stressful life events are relevant in understanding why some young people who experience stressful life events are more likely to develop psychotic symptoms than others. The team will also examine detailed brain scan images of adolescents, both with and without psychotic symptoms, to see whether or not they offer any clues as to why some young people experience these psychotic-like experiences while others do not. The team is particularly interested in a particular area of the brain known as the Hippocampus.
This research has the potential to uncover new information about the kinds of life experiences that place young people at particular risk for developing psychotic-like symptoms and to identify certain processes in the brain that are associated with these experiences. Findings from the study will be used to inform the public, clinicians and policy makers about how best to support young people who experience early life stress.

Award Date
23 October 2015
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor Mary Cannon
Host Institution
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Health Research Awards