Professor; Department Chair
Psychotic disorders (e.g., schizophrenia) are devastating for patients and their families as they involve the onset of symptoms and significant impairment during late adolescence- a critical developmental period when youth are only just starting to make a transition into independence. These disorders are highly prevalent, and once diagnosed, involve a chronic course and bleak prognosis. However, an emerging research field suggests that we can now effectively identify those who are at imminently high-risk for psychosis, several years before onset. These youth exhibit attenuated psychosis symptoms (e.g., experiencing unusual thoughts, seeing brief shadows, hearing strange sounds). Those who meet criteria for a prodromal (high-risk) syndrome have a significant chance of developing schizophrenia or an affective disorder with psychotic features within a short period. This serves as a foundation for a line of research that suggests that if we can identify high-risk adolescents and provide early intervention, the course of illness will be improved or perhaps prevented entirely.
My research involves developing and applying conceptual models to work with adolescents and young adults exhibiting high-risk syndromes as well as those who have recently developed psychotic disorders. I conduct prospective longitudinal studies that follow a range of characteristics that may be used to enhance identification of these individuals, predict who among them may eventually transition to psychosis, and concurrently, refine understanding of pathophysiology. Additionally, I utilize the information to develop novel targeted treatments and remediations. I am also keenly interested in moving understanding and intervention to earlier developmental periods and clinical phases, including the premorbid stage and childhood.
My lab employs a range of cognitive neuroscience-based techniques and quantitative approaches, and we primarily focus on motor, affective and cognitive processing as well as the role of stigma and other environmental stressors in the pathophysiology of psychosis. The website below describes this work in detail and provides more information about the team.
Vargas, T., Damme, K., Mittal, V.A. (2020). Neighborhood deprivation, prefrontal morphology and neurocognition in late childhood to early adolescence. Neuroimage, 220. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117086
Hitczenko K, Cowan R, Goldrick M, Mittal VA (2021). Racial and Ethnic Biases in Computational Approaches to Psychopathology. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 48(2), 285-288. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbab131
Katherine S F Damme, Tina Gupta, Ivanka Ristanovic, David Kimhy, Angela D Bryan, Vijay A Mittal. (2022). Exercise Intervention in Individuals at Clinical High Risk for Psychosis: Benefits to Fitness, Symptoms, Hippocampal Volumes, and Functional Connectivity, Schizophrenia Bulletin, 48(6), 1394-1405. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbac084
Osborne, K.J., Zhang, W., Geiger, M., Farrens, J., Kraus, B., Glazer, J., Nusslock, R., Kappenman, E.S., Mittal, V.A (2022). Neural mechanisms of motor dysfunction in individuals at clinical high-risk for psychosis: Evidence for impairments in motor activation. Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science, 131(4), 375-391. doi: 10.1037/abn0000754
Vargas T, Mittal VA. (2022). Brain morphometry points to emerging patterns of psychosis, depression and anxiety vulnerability over a two-year period in childhood. Psychol Medicine, 1-13. doi: 10.1017/s0033291721005304
Vargas T., Mittal V. (2022). The Critical Roles of Early Development, Stress and Environments in the Course of Psychosis. Annual Review of Developmental Psychology, 4(1), 423-445. doi: 10.1146/annurev-devpsych-121020-032354
Pratt DN, Bridgwater M, Schiffman J, Ellman LM, Mittal VA. (2022). Do the components of risk for psychosis ratings truly represent one construct? Schizophrenia Bulletin. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbac182
Ristanovic I, Vargas TG, Damme KS, Mittal VA. (2023). Hippocampal Subfields, Daily Stressors, and Resting Cortisol in Individuals at Clinical High-Risk for Psychosis. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 148, 105996. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2022.105996
Zarubin, V., Damme, K. S.F., Vargas, T., Osborne, K. J., Norton, E. S., Briggs-Gowan, M., Allen, N. B., Wakschlag, L. & Mittal, V. A. (2023). Neurodevelopmental vulnerability to psychosis: Developmentally-based methods enable detection of early life inhibitory control deficits that predict psychotic-like experiences at the transition to adolescence. Psychological Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1017/S003329172300171X
Cowan RF, Williams TR, Ellman L, Schiffman J, Mittal VA. (2023). Mapping psychosis risk states onto the hierarchical taxonomy of psychopathology using hierarchical symptom dimensions. Clinical Psychological Science. https://doi.org/10.1177/216770262211461
Porter A, Fei S, Damme K, Nusslock R, Gratton C, Mittal VA. A meta-analysis and systematic review of single vs. multimodal neuroimaging techniques in the classification of psychosis. Molecular Psychiatry, 2023 Aug 10. doi: 10.1038/s41380-023-02195-9