Quantifying socio-cognitive deficits to optimize schizophrenia treatment

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Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental health condition with high societal and personal costs, due largely to chronic difficulties with social and occupational functioning. While classical symptoms of schizophrenia – such as hearing voices – are often responsive to medication, people with schizophrenia also experience difficulties in social cognition, or understanding and interpreting the intentions and emotions of others. Social cognition affects the ability to function in society, and is a key determinant of real-world outcomes in schizophrenia.

Despite its importance, we lack objective and easy-to-deploy instruments to assess social cognition. This measurement gap presents a critical stumbling block for development of interventions to improve social cognition, because the effects of potential treatments cannot be assessed efficiently and at high resolution. Better measurements are also needed to identify individuals likely to benefit from such treatments and monitor treatment effects over time.

This project will develop innovative automated methods to measure a key component of social cognition – the ability to recognize the intentions and emotions of others. The underlying idea is to present a participant with a cue – such as a short video clip intended to be amusing – and then apply computational methods to their spoken response to see if it aligns with the intention behind the cue. The result will be a set of validated measurement tools to facilitate objective, repeatable, and scalable assessment of social cognition. These tools will accelerate our ability to rigorously test new treatments targeting these key deficits impacting people living with schizophrenia.

Project Period:
September 1, 2021 August 31, 2022

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Garvey Institute for Brain Health Solutions

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