Psychotic disorders are among the most devastating mental illnesses because of severe positive (hallucinations, delusions, etc.) and negative (social withdrawal, amotivation, etc.) symptoms that have detrimental impacts on the lives of sufferers. There are a range of neurochemical and structural abnormalities identified in the brains of psychosis sufferers. These abnormalities are thought to develop and progress because of a genetic predisposition for disease development, which is expressed under stressful conditions. This is called the diathesis-stress model of psychosis. The perception of stress is associated with activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which results in the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that binds to glucocorticoid receptors that are present in the mesolimbic system. Increased glucocorticoid secretion and binding leads to dysregulation in multiple neural pathways, resulting in psychotic symptoms. This presentation aims to review the influence of the most universal neurological indicators of psychosis progression, with dysregulation of HPA axis activation as the central focus. Research has shown that long-term and abnormal HPA axis activation has a variety of negative consequences in high-risk individuals.
Ashley Brodell, ’16
Sponsor: Melinda Green