People with schizophrenia can have difficulties in interacting with others and navigating the social world, the disease effects cognitive functions like memory, attention and empathy.

An early diagnoses of schizophrenia can be crucial in learning to cope with the condition and establish a stable identity which can cope with the significant the changes in social networks (the real kind) family and intimate relationships.

A study lead by David Neumann from the Behavioural Basis of Health group is embarking on research which they hope will reduce the burden of schizophrenia through earlier diagnoses.

Treatment must be unique to each individual

“Unfortunately, deficits in cognition are present throughout the acute psychosis phases and persist even when these symptoms disappear. Likewise, deficits in social functioning are present throughout the course of the disorder,” Dr Neumann said.

“Schizophrenia is a complex disorder and its treatment has to be sensitive to a person’s individual needs. We are beginning to make progress, but a lot more work needs to be done.

“Early intervention has a greater chance of helping sufferers as they are more likely to still have social support networks and workplace support. However, early-intervention based programs need to be evidence-based and supported by changes in health care policy.”

Griffith Innovation Grant

Associate Professor Neumann has recently received $100 000 through the Griffith Innovation Grants and will be working with a cross disciplinary team which includes Professors David Shum, Lyn Griffiths and Dr Chris Lloyd.

“I think that each discipline has an equal role to play. I’m most interested in seeing how our different disciplines combine in a fashion in which the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

“The changes are already in progress — social cognition is being increasingly recognised as a severe impairment in individuals with schizophrenia, but more research is needed to better understand its underlying cause.”