Project ID NS-MH2023_19


Co Supervisor 1A IoPPN/Psychosis StudiesWebsite

Co Supervisor 1B IoPPN/Psychosis StudiesWebsite

Predicting psychosis-onset through online assessment of belief-updating and speech organisation

To mitigate the ill consequences of psychosis on people’s life, the NHS and the economy, clinicians increasingly focus on early intervention. Here, the aim is to prevent psychosis from occurring in people at risk of the condition. One way to improve our ability to predict psychosis-onset is to build on the mechanisms known to underlie psychosis and determine whether these can sensitively detect whether someone will develop psychosis. Previous work consistently showed that some symptoms (hallucinations and delusions) might be the end results of changes in the way that people update their beliefs, whereas another characteristic of psychosis called formal thought disorder can be detected early from subtle changes in speech. The aim of this PhD is to measure belief-updating and speech online using people’s own smartphones and computers in up to 150 people who are at risk of psychosis, and to determine if this can predict psychosis-onset. If successful, this could contribute to better allocate treatment to people who most need it. Skills training will include online data collection, analysis and reporting of belief-updating and speech data. There is also a possibility to receive training and conduct clinical interviews for psychosis.

Years 1 and 2: Review the literature, train in assessment and analyses of belief-updating and speech data. Analyse the data from the baseline assessment.

Year 3: Analyse the data from the follow-up assessment to assess if belief-updating and speech predict transition to psychosis. This year will also be dedicated to preparing publications and to writing-up the PhD thesis.

One representative publication from each co-supervisor:

Haarsma, J., Fletcher, P., Griffin, J., Taverne, H., Ziauddeen, H., Spencer, T., … Diederen, K.M.J. & Murray, G. (2019). Precision-weighting of superior frontal cortex unsigned prediction error signals benefits learning, is mediated by dopamine, and is impaired in psychosis.

Spencer, T. J., Thompson, B., Oliver, D., Diederen, K., Demjaha, A., Weinstein, S., … & McGuire, P. (2021). Lower speech connectedness linked to incidence of psychosis in people at clinical high risk. Schizophrenia research, 228, 493-501.