Current research projects may be divided into these inter-linked areas:
Overview of our research programs
Our research program lies at the intersection between biological psychiatry and cognitive neuroscience with developmental and behavior genetics components. Our broad research goals are to specify and understand neurobiological bases of psychoses and in doing so, to further elucidate neural underpinnings of normal cognitive processes. Since early 1990s, we have focused on understanding the nature of cognitive deficits of schizophrenia (e.g. deficits in working memory, attention, oculomotor control) to elucidate the relationships among behavioral signs, brain abnormalities and psychotic symptoms.
We work with observable and quantifiable behaviors that can clearly differentiate patients with schizophrenia from healthy people and we try to understand the neural origins and behavioral consequences of these differences. Our earlier studies of working memory deficit in schizophrenia have played a significant role in establishing cognitive symptoms as core features of schizophrenia (e.g. Park & Holzman 1992, 1993; see meta-analytic review in Lee & Park, 2005). These investigations led to a deep interest in identifying components and etiology of core cognitive symptoms and associated endophenotypic markers of schizophrenia (e.g. Park, Holzman & Goldman-Rakic, 1995; Park, Holzman & Lenzenweger, 1995; Park et al, 1999; Myles-Worsley & Park, 2002). Better understanding of cardinal features of schizophrenia should lead to more effective pharmacological and behavioral treatments. Moreover, specification of behavioral markers may help us detect neurocognitive precursors of psychosis in young people at high-risk, which should be very useful for developing effective intervention strategies.
Our lab has been successful in building synergistic collaborations with neuropharmacologists (Meltzer, Cowan, Sumiyoshi), radiologists (Kessler, Riccardi), biophysicists (Anderson, Gore), developmental psychologists (Hespos), social psychologists (Roese) and vision scientists (Blake, Lappin). We utilize multiple methods and techniques to examine components of memory, attention and social deficits in psychiatric patients (cognitive neuropsychology, psychophysics, psychophysiology, fMRI, near-infrared optical imaging, PET, DTI and neuropharmacology).
Since 1991, our research projects have been continuously supported by grants from federal agencies (NIMH, NIDA, Swiss National Science Foundation) and private foundations (NARSAD, Human Frontiers of Science Program, Scottish Rite) and these grants have been instrumental in training graduate and undergraduate students, medical students, post-doctoral fellows and research assistants in psychology, neuroscience and psychiatry. We have developed a strong and systematic research program in cognitive neuroscience of psychiatric disorders and have trained and nurtured young scientists who, in turn, go out to build their own research laboratories in psychiatric neuroscience. In the next decade, we expect to grow further towards understanding the etiology of schizophrenia, its developmental trajectory in pre-schizophrenic adolescents and the individual differences in the phenotypic manifestation of the disorder so that we may begin to implement intervention strategies and more effective, tailored pharmacological and behavioral treatments.