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NIMH Schizophrenia Initiative Featured in Biological Psychiatry

Science Update

An NIMH initiative to fill the gap between advances in basic cognitive neuroscience and practical clinical applications for patients with schizophrenia is the topic of the July 1, 2008 issue of Biological Psychiatry. It contains eight articles on the Cognitive Neuroscience Approaches to the Treatment of Impaired Cognition in Schizophrenia (CNTRICS) initiative, including a commentary, and descriptions of meetings related to the effort.

"Cognitive neuroscience has made enormous strides in the past two decades by mapping the brain's rules and routes for information processing. CNTRICS endeavors to translate the tools and insights from cognitive neuroscience into better treatments for schizophrenia," says Thomas Insel, MD, NIMH director.

CNTRICS grew out of an NIMH initiative called Measurement and Treatment of Research to Improve Cognition in Schizophrenia (MATRICS) begun in 2002, that responded to the need to develop new drugs to address cognitive deficits and to facilitate regulatory approval. MATRICS produced a battery of tasks reflecting seven domains of cognitive functioning. These measures have become widely used in clinical trials focusing on cognitive function in schizophrenia and developing novel treatments. The initiative included representatives from academia, NIMH, industry, the Food and Drug Administration, and consumer groups.

A steering group of experts in basic cognitive neuroscience, clinical studies of cognition in schizophrenia, and pharmacology lead the CNTRICS effort. The goal is to identify promising experimental cognitive tasks for further measurement development, to develop guidelines for adapting laboratory tasks for use in clinical trials, and to consider how adapted tasks can be used behaviorally and in functional imaging studies to improve treatment of impaired cognition in schizophrenia. The process involves Web-based surveys to include a broad range of participants and three consensus-building meetings.

The first meeting, held in February, 2007, in Bethesda, MD, addressed the component processes of cognition that should be targeted for treatment development in schizophrenia. The second meeting, held in St. Louis in September, 2007, discussed psychometric and practical issues of using experimental cognitive tasks to measure treatment effects on cognition in schizophrenia. The third meeting, held in Sacramento in March, 2008, focused on identifying specific tasks that could be used to measure treatment effects on cognition in schizophrenia and enhance translational research.

More information about the CNTRICS project is available at


Biological Psychiatry, Volume 64, Issue 1, July 1, 2008.