Title: The Search for Neuromarkers (Endophenotypes) in Schizophrenia and Autism
Many neurodevelopmental/neuropsychiatric diseases have a relatively protracted pre-symptomatic (prodromal) period, where the disease is not manifest but the disease process is already underway. In the case of schizophrenia, the frank phenotype only emerges in early adulthood, but “soft” symptoms are often observed in the years during late childhood and adolescence. Unfortunately, these prodromal symptoms can be difficult to dissociate from typical teenage behaviors and are not strongly predictive. Autism is another condition where initial diagnosis typically occurs when a child is already approaching 5 years of age, despite the fact that the condition has been present from birth. Again, once the diagnosis is made, retrospective studies often show that telltale symptoms were in evidence during infancy and toddlerhood. Because it remains very difficult to accurately predict from behavioral testing during childhood who will go on to develop schizophrenia, or from clinical observations in infancy, who will go on to receive an ASD diagnosis, efforts to develop preventative interventions have been limited. Without sensitive and specific predictive markers, the impetus to intervene prospectively is low, and even when this is done, there is a paucity of objective measures against which to evaluate therapeutic efficacy. In this talk, I will describe efforts to develop simple neuromarkers of disease (and disease risk) in Schizophrenia and Autism using high-density electrophysiological approaches. I will discuss ongoing efforts to develop endophenotypes that are common both to the humans who suffer from a given disease and the animal models we generate to try to understand the underlying neurobiology. The development of common cross-species endophenotypes will be key to accelerating translational therapeutic efforts.
Dr. Foxe is a Professor and chairperson in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Rochester.