Psyscan

A tablet-based tool to predict psychosis

Researchers at NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) are developing a pioneering neuroimaging-based tool to help doctors predict future illness in people with psychotic disorders. 

The approach uses tablet computers to help diagnose individuals in the early stages of psychosis and identify those who might go on to develop schizophrenia.

The PSYSCAN project involves experts from 20 leading research centres across Europe, Australia, Canada, South America, and Asia. The project partners have collected an unparalleled volume of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), clinical, genetic, and cognitive data to identify biomarkers that influence the development of schizophrenia.

The project team is now working with industry partners IXICO, Cambridge Cognition, Eli Lilly, and Roche to build an iPad-based prediction tool developed from these extensive studies of patient data. The tool has three main clinical applications: PSYSCAN-Predict to predict the onset of psychosis in people at high risk; PSYSCAN-Stratify to help make an early diagnosis in people with first episode psychosis; and PSYSCAN-Monitor to measure disease progression over time.

In clinical practice, doctors will take a set of cognitive, clinical, genetic, and sociodemographic information and input it into an iPad. These data, along with neuroimaging data, will be electronically transferred to a central facility for analysis. The results will then be fed back directly to the doctor’s iPad using a simple traffic-light format. A beta version of PSYSCAN has already been piloted in both high risk and first-episode patients. The clinical impact of the new tool is now being assessed in clinical practice at centres across Europe in two large-scale naturalistic studies.

Psychotic disorders are common diseases affecting around 1% of the population. Around a third of individuals with early symptoms will go on to develop a clinical psychotic disorder, usually schizophrenia, in the next 2–3 years. Being able to identify these high-risk individuals will allow early intervention and treatment to help prevent or delay the debilitating effects of schizophrenia.

PSYSCAN is a major step forward in the development of technology to help in the diagnosis and management of mental health disorders.