A Novel Screening Method for Assessment of Psychopathologic Disorders

Summary Background: The advancement in psychiatric genetics and clinical neuroscience is hindered by the heterogeneity of psychiatric disorders and by difficulties in defining and characterizing the phenotype under investigation. A promising endophenotype is anhedonia, the loss of pleasure or lack of reactivity to pleasurable stimuli. Anhedonia is one of the core symptoms of depression and has been considered a potential trait marker related to vulnerability of depression. Anhedonia is not only critical for identifying subjects at risk for psychopathology, but has also been found to predict treatment outcome and relapse rate for several mental disorders. Despite the importance of anhedonia and abnormal approach-related behavior in depression, it is surprising to note a paucity of clinical approaches that employs laboratory-based measurements to objectively characterize these symptoms.

Invention: A novel screening tool that objectively, reliably, and non-invasively assesses anhedonia. The screen involves a task with a differential reinforcement schedule that utilizes a reward (such as money) to provide an objective, laboratory-based measure of hedonic capacity. A blunted response to reinforcement indicates a behavioral manifestation of hedonic hypofunctioning. This tool can circumvent the long process of trial and error for a given treatment modality. The invention can also provide an early marker to identify subjects with a low probability of therapeutic response.

Applications Applications: The assessment tool allows a cost-effective assessment of a core symptom of psychopathology and offers a screening/assessment tool for (a) developing new compounds aimed at ameliorating anhedonia; and (b) predicting treatment response before trial onset. Psychopathologies include mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, and substance-related disorders. The invention could also be used to screening for genetic, pharmacological, and neuroscience studies of normal and abnormal behavior as well as to predict therapeutic outcome and relapse rate (e.g., during smoking cessation trials) and to guide selection of treatment options.

Market: The incidence of mental illness in the United States affects about 22.1 percent of adults annually or 44.3 million people (NIMH). Approximately 1 in 4 (22.10%) or 60.1 million people in the US are afflicted with at least one type of mental illnesss.

Patent Status: Pending

Publications: Pizzagalli, D.A., Jahn, A.L., O'Shea, J.P. (2005). Toward an objective characterization of an anhedonic phenotype: A Signal-detection approach. Biological Psychiatry, 57, 319-327. For Further Information Please Contact the Director of Business Development Laura Brass Email: laura_brass@harvard.edu Telephone: (617) 495-3067

Inventor(s): Pizzagalli, Diego A.

Type of Offer: Licensing

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