The Bearden lab’s research aims to understand genetic, cognitive and neurobiological risk factors for the development of adolescent-onset neuropsychiatric disorders. We are examining these questions through two complementary lines of research: 1) The investigation of intermediate neuroanatomic and cognitive traits associated with the development of psychosis and mood disorder; and 2) The study of neurobehavioral manifestations of syndromes with an identified genetic origin.

One of these studies focuses on 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome and 22q Duplication Syndrome. 22q Deletion Syndrome is a genetic disorder which results in a disruption of early neuronal migration and confers a particularly high risk for psychosis. Dr. Bearden’s research group has an ongoing, NIMH-funded longitudinal study of risk factors for psychiatric disorder in children and adolescents with this syndrome. Far less is known about 22q Duplication Syndrome and our study is helping to better understand this syndrome. This project involves comprehensive phenotyping (i.e., dimensional measures of psychopathology, neurocognition, and structural and functional neuroanatomy) which will be examined in relation to genetic variation at the 22q11.2 locus.

We are also investigating risk factors for psychosis in youth with subthreshold clinical symptoms indicating high risk for the development of psychotic illness, in the Center for Assessment and Prevention of Prodromal States (CAPPS). The CAPPS program, directed by Dr. Bearden, is part of the NIMH-funded North American Prodromal Longitudinal Study (NAPLS) Consortium.

Another active research project, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Nelson Freimer, is an NIMH-funded study of neural endophenotypes of bipolar disorder in a genetically isolated population in Latin America.