In the search for new ways to prevent and treat mental illnesses, scientists are refining their understanding of the interplay between environmental factors and brain development in these disorders. Elaine F. Walker has been instrumental in propelling this area of research forward. In one of her most well-known studies, she retrospectively examined childhood home movies of adult-onset schizophrenia patients and their healthy siblings using quantifiable behavioral observations. This approach was groundbreaking in examining real-time predictions of schizophrenia across the early developmental trajectory. Most recently, Walker and her colleagues have been studying a developmental period called the “prodrome,” or the period of months or years that lead up to the onset of a clinical psychiatric disorder. Their aim is to enhance understanding of the neural mechanisms that trigger psychosis. Walker’s research carries important implications for public health and development of novel preventive interventions.
Watch Walker’s Award Address at the 25th APS Annual Convention.