Mind Wandering in Individuals with Schizotypal Personality Traits

Disruption of attention is a hallmark symptom of schizophrenia, and it has been shown that people with schizophrenia exhibit reduced levels of sensitivity in processing external stimuli. However, it has also been suggested that healthy individuals do not process external stimuli when they are 'mind wandering' to the extent that they normally would when they are paying attention to the task-at hand. That schizophrenia and mind wandering both involve reduced sensitivity to ongoing events in the external world suggests they may be closely related. Therefore, it is possible that the processing deficits associated with schizophrenia are related to levels of mind wandering. Julia Kam is investigating mind wandering states in healthy individuals who may be vulnerable to developing schizophrenia with the purpose of determining whether abnormal levels of mind wandering are consistently evident across the entire spectrum of disorders in which schizophrenia is present. A key implication of this study is that varying levels of mind wandering and the brain wave counterparts observed in the general population may be considered as indicators for the potential development of schizophrenia. Given that schizophrenia has a strong genetic component, these 'indicators' may serve to identify healthy individuals, especially relatives of patients with schizophrenia, who are themselves at higher risk for developing the disorder. This is an important first step in implementing preventive interventions for such high-risk individuals. Once identified, persons considered at-risk may then benefit substantially from programs that highlight protective factors and increase awareness of risk factors, all of which are intended to prevent the development of schizophrenia.