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Mahnoor Hyat awarded a research grant from UW Population Health to identify early predictors of risk for schizophrenia in diverse youth. Hyat is mentored by Jen Forsyth.

Mahnoor Hyat was awarded a population health Tier 1 grant this spring. The University of Washington Population Health Initiative’s Tier 1 Pilot Research Grant program encourages new interdisciplinary collaborations among investigators for projects that address critical components of grand challenges the UW seeks to address in population health.

Mahnoor is mentored by Jen Forsyth. The award title is “Working Towards Prevention: Identifying Early Predictors of Risk for Schizophrenia in Diverse Youth.”

Read more about the UW Population Health Iniative's Tier 1 grants awarded in Spring 2023 here: 

Project abstract
Schizophrenia (SCZ) is a debilitating and costly disorder associated with high unemployment rates, social disability, and suicide. Current diagnostic criteria depend on fully-formed psychotic symptoms, leading to treatments being introduced only after severe symptom expression and suboptimal outcomes for most patients. However, growing evidence suggests that early cognitive and behavioral signs may precede future psychopathology in those who develop SCZ. Importantly, the success of recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of SCZ now allows for computation of summary-level polygenic risk scores, which provide a cumulative measure of an individual’s genetic risk level for SCZ. However, the majority of research on SCZ genetic risk factors and early behavioral signs has relied on predominantly white, European ancestry samples. Given differences in exposure to environmental stressors, SCZ diagnosis rates, and allele frequencies across genetic ancestry groups, there is a substantial need for research on SCZ risk markers in diverse groups.

The current project aims to identify early behavioral markers of genetic risk for SCZ across individuals with African, Latinx, and European ancestry, using data from the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development study. It will examine whether genetic risk for SCZ is linked to cognitive, behavioral and/or emotional functioning in childhood, and if molecularly-defined genetic risk provides information beyond what is garnered through family history of SCZ. The overarching goal is to improve screening for elevated SCZ risk across diverse youth in healthcare settings and to develop a team that is well poised to conduct population-health research and work towards equitable application of genetics in mental health.