New Treatment Helps Young Schizophrenics

Rapoport Gives Details at Boylston Hall

An experimental treatment has offered new hope to children suffering from early-onset schizophrenia, according to Chief of the Child Psychology Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Judith L. Rapoport. Rapoport, a Harvard Medical School graduate, addressed an audience of 56 last night at Bolyston Hall.

The psychologist and author of "The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Washing" was the guest speaker for the third annual Karen Stone Lecture, sponsored jointly by the Psychology Department and the Smart Family Foundation.

"I felt like Joan of Arc with voices saying I should do this study," Rapoport said of her research.

Many of the subjects in Rapoport's ongoing NIMH study have responded positively to new atypical anti-psychotic medication.

Rapoport said that her work with young schizophrenics has been "one the most heart-warming experiences I have ever had in clinical medicine."


"Many of these children have been able to go to regular schools for the first time in their lives," she said.

The study of childhood schizophrenia has not been widely examined, Rapoport said, because of the rarity of the early onset of the disease.

Rapoport said those suffering from the disorder usually have their first schizophrenic episode after 17 years of age.

Rapoport turned to a study of childhood schizophrenia because she said thatshe felt a "number of things [were] conspiring [tocreate] a unique opportunity" in this field ofresearch.

The development of the new atypicalanti-psychotic medications has allowed the NIMH toencourage the parents of young patients to enrolltheir children in the study, she said.

Rapoport said that another reason for herinterest in the study of young schizophrenics isthat past studies of early onsets in similardiseases have yielded impressive results. Studiesoften find that children who develop such diseasesat a young age will experience more severe casesand have stronger family histories of thediseases.

Case histories for over 600 patients werereviewed at NIMH sites around the country,Rapoport said. One hundred and thirteen candidateswere selected for in-depth interviews; 30 werefound to suffer from the early onset ofschizophrenia.

The results of the study have so far been"largely negative," Rapoport said. The prevalenceof schizophrenia among family members of thosestudied, according to Rapoport, is not greaterthan the rate among the families of adultschizophrenics.

Rapoport said the study has yielded the insightthat childhood schizophrenics often have a highincidence of speech disorders in early childhood,including "striking delays in speech andlanguage."

These findings, she said, have led Rapoport andher NIMH team to focus on the brain development ofthose with early onsets of schizophrenia to seewhether delayed development works to compoundtheir condition