Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Definitive International Study Reveals Schizophrenia is Associated with Widespread Change in Brain’s Wiring

 NUI Galway has co-led a major worldwide study with the University of Southern California showing that schizophrenia is associated with widespread changes in how the brain is wired. The study was published today (17 October 2017) in the major impact journal, Molecular Psychiatry. Schizophrenia is a debilitating psychiatric disorder with a considerable societal burden and has been a major focus of neuroimaging studies for decades, yet its neurobiology remains only partially understood. The World Health Organisation has described schizophrenia as a “leading cause of disability, and more disabling that paraplegia or blindness in 18-35 year olds.” The main focus of the study, co-led by Professor Gary Donohoe at the School of Psychology at NUI Galway, was to identify changes in white matter, often thought as the brain’s wiring system that causes this disability. Cumulative evidence has led to a ‘dysconnectivity’ hypothesis that schizophrenia may involve abnormal or inefficient communication between brain regions, due to disturbances in the underlying pattern of white matter. Until now several small studies have tried to identify white matter changes with inconclusive results. In an effort to overcome the problems of previous studies, researchers from around the world came together as part of the ‘ENIGMA consortium’ to carry out the first ever large-scale coordinated study of white matter microstructural differences in schizophrenia. In an unprecedented sample of 4,322 individuals scanned across 29 cohorts from Australia, Asia, Europe, South Africa and North America, data from patients and controls were re-analysed in a manner that allowed greater power to identify changes across the brain. The study also determined if disease-related factors (including duration of illness, age at onset of schizophrenia, antipsychotic medication, smoking, and severity of positive and negative symptoms) are also associated with differences in white matter microstructure. Using an approach known as diffusion tensor imaging, or DTI, the results from the study showed that throughout the brain, the so-called ‘white matter’ fibres which connect different brain regions are slightly altered, or frayed, making communication between different brain regions sub-optimal. While these differences were larger in some areas of the brain than others, an important finding from the study was that these changes were seen right across the brain and not just in one area. In schizophrenia, these changes are likely to help explain several clinical symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions, but also the cognitive difficulties that people experience and that strongly predict a level of disability. Commenting on the study, the studies’ senior author Professor Gary Donohue from NUI Galway, said: “It’s almost 40 years since we had the first clues that schizophrenia was associated with changes in brain structure. What the ENIGMA consortium has achieved here is to provide definitive proof that these changes are not specific to any one area of the brain, but rather reflect subtle yet widespread changes throughout the brain. In terms of the idea that schizophrenia might be caused by a mis-wiring of the brain, this study provides unequivocal evidence that this is the case. The next steps will be to identify the individual genetics variants that lead to this mis-wiring.” Professor Donohoe added: “Schizophrenia can be enormously disabling and is frequently misunderstood. These studies are essential both for explaining the difficulties that those affected experience, but also to bring us further along the pathway to developing new therapies. Towards that end, this study is pointing us in a particular direction to treat schizophrenia as a disorder affecting the whole brain rather than one part of it.” To read the full paper in Molecular Psychiatry, visit: http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/mp2017170a.html?foxtrotcallback=true -Ends-


News Archive

Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC) has been awarded Best Contribution to Data Science from an Academic Research Body at the 2017 DataSci Awards NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC) received the Best Contribution to Data Science award at the 2017 DataSci Awards for work in producing two high-resolution Numerical Weather Prediction simulations, which will enable ground-breaking climate research for Ireland. The data from these simulations has the potential to inform public policy, the Irish energy sector and a wide range of research in fields such as climate change trends, agriculture, disaster prevention, renewable energy, and socio-economic planning. ICHEC Climate Change lead Dr Paul Nolan said: “This work was made possible through Ireland’s national supercomputer Fionn and ICHEC’s expertise. Weather and climate shape economies and infrastructures that touch upon nearly every aspect of our daily lives, from food supply to recreational activities to energy resources.” Dr Nolan added, “We would hope that this recognition will showcase the importance of homogeneous, long-term, gridded datasets to be utilised within industry, research and public sectors.” The simulations were run on the ICHEC supercomputing systems with the research funded by an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) climate research project. The datasets were analysed in detail for energy applications. This energy research component was funded by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The aim of this work is to promote and make the data publicly available for researchers, policy makers, the general public and Irish industry. The provision of these datasets support Ireland's renewable energy commitments. For example, under the EU Directive on the Promotion of the Use of Renewable Energy (2009/28/EC, NREAP), Ireland is committed to ensuring that 16% of the total energy consumed in heating, electricity and transport is generated from renewable resources by 2020. -Ends-

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

NUI Galway to host public lecture by leading international war crimes lawyer Peter McCloskey The Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway will host a free public lecture on the prosecution of the Bosnian genocide on Thursday, 19 October at 7:30pm. The lecture will be given by Peter McCloskey, a senior trial attorney in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia who has been working for two decades on cases concerning the massacres which took place in Srenbrenica in July 1995. Peter McCloskey has been closely involved in the prosecution of twenty individuals indicted by the Tribunal for crimes committed in Srebrenica, including most prominently Serbian President Slobodan Milošević, Radovan Karadžić and General Ratko Mladić. He will speak of his experience in prosecuting genocide, the “crimes of crimes,” which aims at the destruction of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague is one of the few international courts to ever prosecute the crime of genocide, the other being the tribunal for Rwanda. Both courts have almost completed their work and this lecture offers a valuable opportunity to reflect on their efforts in addressing the crime of genocide. For Peter McCloskey, these prosecutions provided an opportunity to bring to light the organised and systematic murder of over 7,000 people at Srebrenica. “Over the years,” he explains, “we grew to know many of the survivors, witnesses and victims of Srebrenica and learned from them how much they appreciated our effort and how much our work meant to them.  From their words and warm affection it appears we have been able to bring a small measure of peace and justice to those Bosnians and the Bosnian Muslim community as a whole.” “Dr Shane Darcy of the Irish Centre for Human Rights said: “We are honoured that Peter McCloskey will travel to Galway to share his vast experience in the prosecution of notorious war criminals. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has been a ground-breaking development in international affairs, demonstrating that perpetrators of serious international crimes can be called to account before a judicial body, despite the various legal, political and practical challenges that this may have presented.” The lecture takes place at 7:30pm on Thursday, 19 October in the Tyndall Theatre, NUI Galway concourse. -Ends-  

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Director of NUI Galway’s UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre is co-editor of new handbook bringing together leaders in the field of Children’s Rights in the UK and Ireland A new book, the Routledge Handbook of Global Child Welfare, co-edited by Professor Pat Dolan from NUI Galway, provides a compelling account of child welfare, grounded in the latest theory, policy and practice. The book will beofficially launched at the House of Lords in Westminster, London next Tuesday 17 October by Doreen Elizabeth Massey, Baroness Massey of Darwen and Labour member of the House of Lords. The launch at the House of Lords will bring together leaders in the field of Children’s Rights from across the UK and Ireland. Briefings will be delivered on key themes from selected chapters such as preventing child sexual exploitation, the de-institutionalisation of children and the process and outcomes relating to multidisciplinary work with children and young people. Briefings will be presented by Professor Pat Dolan, Director of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, Professor Jenny Pearce, University of Bedfordshire, Georgette Mulheir, Lumos Foundation (whose founder and President is the Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling) and Professor Nick Frost, Leeds Beckett University. Speaking in advance of the launch, Professor Pat Dolan co-editor of the book and Director of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, said: “This ambitious and far-reaching handbook is essential reading for everyone working to make the world a better and safer place for children. Whether it is deaths resulting from child protection failures, sexual abuse and exploitation or the impact of war and famine, child refugees, or the simple fact that corporal punishment is still in existence in a third of the world’s countries, the effects of these issues on children requires collective responses and calls for something to be done. This book brings together a group of leading commentators, academics and activists to offer a considered examination of the challenges and hopefulness towards solutions.” Co-editor of the book, Nick Frost from Leeds Beckett University, said: “It was a great pleasure to work with Pat Dolan in editing this collection of articles. We hope we have provided a comprehensive overview of global developments. Whilst it was impossible to cover every country and every theme, we hope we have highlighted the key challenges and suggested some realistic directions of travel for the future. Our volume does not explicitly cover issues common to all children, health and education, for example: it is concerned with children who may be regarded as ‘vulnerable’ and/or amongst the most disadvantaged on the planet.” Drawing on eminent international expertise, the book offers a coherent and comprehensive overview of the policies, systems and practices that can deliver the best outcomes for children. It considers the challenges faced by children globally, and the difference families, services and professionals can make. -Ends-  


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