Introduction to psychotic disorders: Epidemiology and aetiology (6 credits)
This course will start with an introduction to the history of the study of psychotic disorders, covering how the concepts and approaches have evolved in the last 150 years as a result of technological and societal progress, as well as highlighting the important challenges in the last decade. General principles of epidemiology will be introduced. The incidence and the prevalence of psychotic disorders in different populations will be considered, highlighting the way potential aetiological mechanisms might be suggested from epidemiological data. Using the example of the season of birth effect, the exploration will develop to cover the current findings of early and late environmental risk factors for psychosis (such as maternal influenza, high paternal age, migration, urban upbringing, and substance abuse). It will highlight the different pathway through which these factors might act. The evidence for genetic factors will be reviewed in detail, with an appreciation of the extent to which genetic factors determine the risk for psychosis. Potential mode of inheritance and examples of gene-environment interaction will be discussed. The partial expression of traits in genetically related individuals, as well as in schizotypal disorders will also be described. The potential role of stress in the onset and relapse of the disorder will be reviewed in the context of the stress-vulnerability approach.
Course coordinator: Dr WC Chang