Schizophrenia is defined as a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder –and it’s much more common than you may realize. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia occurs in 1 percent of the general population, and the incidence is even higher among people who have a first-degree relative with the disorder. For instance, schizophrenia occurs in 10 percent of the population of people who have a parent, brother or sister with it; if the sibling is an identical twin, the other twin has a 40 to 65 percent chance of developing the disorder.
Statistics like these mean schizophrenia ranks among the top 10 disabilities in the developed world. They also indicate that the disorder has a strong genetic component –which makes it amenable to genomics research.
As Professor Vaughan Carr, CEO of Schizophrenia Research Institute, explains in the two-minute video below, researchers have developed several different ways to help people diagnosed with schizophrenia. The problem is this: These treatments are not effective enough. That’s why researchers in Australia founded the Schizophrenia Research Institute back in 1996. The Institute aims to better understand the causes of schizophrenia, to apply that understanding to create better treatments and ultimately, to find a means to prevent or cure the illness. To that end, the Institute recently broadened its research focus to accelerate applied research and clinical treatment studies that will be of more immediate benefit to people with schizophrenia.
A key part of this effort is the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank (ASRB), which was developed to support local and international research by providing clinical and cognitive assessments, DNA samples and MRI brain scans to researchers. As outlined in the Schizophrenia Research Institute’s 2013 Annual Report, the ASRB recently upgraded its data base so that it could be used more efficiently and effectively. The updated database now:
- Allows accurate tracking of volunteer participation in projects
- Includes an added online resource application system
- Features an upgraded query builder to reflect virtually any inclusion or exclusion criteria researchers deem appropriate
- Allows researchers to access approved data and research participant information
- Simplifies the blood product management section
- Stores and queries genetic data
- Offers bulk download of large MRI files
- Provides information on projects that are recruiting volunteers
- Includes a descriptive statistics section for researchers
Here’s a video clip with more information about the Insititute:
And another, more specific to the ASRB: