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3.13.2012

Philip D. Harvey, Ph.D., Awarded $3.2 Million to Improve Schizophrenia Treatment

Philip D. Harvey, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and chief of the Division of Psychology, has been awarded a $3.2 million grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health to study schizophrenia and improve treatment for the disorder that impairs the ability to function in everyday settings.

Empirically-based, sound instrumentation is key to assessing the outcomes of interventions designed to ameliorate social cognitive impairments, and the five-year study, “Social Cognition Psychometric Evaluation,” will identify and improve existing measures of social cognition that can be applied in large-scale treatment studies.

“Social outcomes in schizophrenia are quite poor, with most patients having very poor social functioning,” Harvey said. “Social cognition – the cognitive abilities associated with social functioning – is more strongly related to social outcomes than other cognitive abilities, including intelligence.”

The project also will develop consensus on the critical elements of social cognition, identify the best existing measures of social cognition, collect new data to evaluate the psychometric characteristics of these measures, modify them to optimize utility, and collect additional data to determine psychometric properties.

By focusing on real-world functional outcomes and the role of social cognition, as compared to neurocognition and social competence, the research team hopes to predict real-world functioning.

“There is no real consensus in the field on the full range of social cognitive domains, and outcome measures are very weak,” Harvey said. “Using our previous experience in validating outcomes measures, we will apply a structured approach to identifying domains of social cognition and developing measures that are valid in both healthy people and people with severe mental illness.”

Before joining the Miller School faculty in 2010, Harvey was professor of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine. A well-known psychiatric researcher, author and clinician, he specializes in cognition, severe mental illness and neuropsychiatric conditions, including traumatic brain injury, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

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