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Blood tests for hallucinations, delusions may be available in future

Research published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry may reveal the next step to developing an objective clinical laboratory blood test for psychotic disease stations.

Moire pattern

Photo by Yolanda Villiers

"Natural" hallucinations can be induced without drugs or psychological anomalies. Moire patterns, for example, induce a sense of motion where there is none. The kind of hallucinations IU School of Medicine Alexander Niculescu is studying are pathological, and may produce specific markers that can be detected in blood samples.

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Currently, there is no predictive blood test that identifies and prioritizes blood biomarkers for two key psychotic symptoms, one sensory (hallucinations) and one cognitive (delusions). The article provides proof of principle for an approach that may provide a breakthrough for diagnosing and treating diseases such as schizophrenia.

Alexander B. Niculescu, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, together with researchers at Scripps Research Institute, at the University of California - San Diego and SUNY Upstate in Syracuse, N.Y., studied gene expression in blood samples from patients with schizophrenia and related disorders, with phenotypic information collected at the time of blood draw, then cross-matched the data with other human and animal model lines of evidence.

Predictive scores, based on panels of top candidate biomarkers, show good sensitivity and predictive value for detecting high psychosis states in the original cohort as well as in three additional cohorts.

"These results have implications for the development of objective laboratory tests to measure illness severity and response to treatment in devastating disorders such as schizophrenia," said Dr. Niculescu, who is an assistant professor of psychiatry and medical neurosciences at the IU School of Medicine, a medical staff psychiatrist at the Roudebush VA Medical Center and director of the INBRAIN and laboratory of Neurophenomics at the IU Institute of Psychiatric Research.

Dr. Niculescu and colleagues had previously identified blood biomarkers for mood disorders in breakthrough research published a year ago in Molecular Psychiatry (Le-Niculescu et al. 2008). More information is available at

This article was first published on Nov. 24, 2009.