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science

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NS-1 - Appreciate how scientists work and how scientific ideas are modified over time

Psychosis may seem an unusual topic to explore in Junior Cycle but it's a fascinating example of current Irish research challanging what people have thought for years. This is a live and local example of how scientific ideas are modified over time.

Professor Cannon's research group is challenging perceptions of psychosis with facts from their years of research with young Irish people. Like much scientific research, the findings that up to 1 in 5 young people had experienced a psychotic symptom were surprising even to Professor Cannon. The number of people experiencing these symptoms drops as people get older to 1 in 20 adults but it is still significantly higher than the rate of people who are diagnosed with a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorders. 

This proved that we need to separate symptoms of psychosis from psychotic disorders if we going to be able to have a productive discussion about how to help people experiencing these symptoms.

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How Scientists Work

The main way that we research psychosis is through case controlled studies over time. That means we take a group of young people who have reported psychotic symptoms and compare them to a control group who have not experienced these symptoms. We can check in with these young people over the course of several years to get an idea of how they are doing as they get older compared to our control group.

Carrying out this kind of work brings several challenges: recruiting people for the study, keeping track of them over the years and changing technologies that we use to test them.

Our current study is called the Adolescent Brain Development study and we're currently following up 10 years after the original research to see how things have changed over time.

Science in Society

While much work has been made on societal acceptance of other mental health issues, psychosis remains "the last frontier" of stigma to overcome in mental health. 

This is important because at the heart of the issue is our need to identify young people who are at risk of developing psychotic disorders and get them the help they need.

There are two challenges here:

  1. To identify people who are at risk of more serious disorders from the larger group of people who experience psychotic symptoms

  2. To identify people who need help as early as possible

In our research we are searching for patterns that we can detect as young as possible. We have limited psychiatric resources and it's important that they are used as effectively as possible with the people who need them most and when it will make the biggest difference. 

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Psychosis - the last frontier of mental health stigma