Critical Connections Psychosis Program

The Critical Connections Psychosis Program is a clinical research initiative by the Department of Psychiatry in collaboration with the Nash Family Department of Neuroscience and the Division of Psychiatric Genomics. The program is focused on severe mental disorders with psychotic symptoms, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and related conditions. With a multimodal focus on investigating the causes of these disorders and finding novel treatments, we strive to improve the lives of patients and their families.

Psychotic symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, thought and language abnormalities, and bizarre behavior. These conditions typically begin in the late teens or early adulthood, often without prior dysfunction. The early identification of people at risk for psychosis may lead to prevention and cure. Working to identify the early signs of emerging psychosis is a key component of our program.

Although many medications can achieve an improvement in the severity of psychotic symptoms, most people with psychosis do not return to their expected level of functioning. We are investigating problems with cognition in people with psychosis, including executive functioning, memory, and attention, to understand the disease process and find new avenues to recovery. We are also developing innovative brain markers of social functioning, as loss of interest and social withdrawal are symptoms that present early, determine the outcome, and are not always addressed by existing treatments.

In addition to describing the specific impairments related to severe mental illness with psychosis, we are discovering the genetic mechanisms and environmental exposures that contribute to risk for psychosis, including inflammation, childhood trauma, advanced paternal age, and the gut microbiome.

Clinical Services

Coping With Unique Experiences, (CUE) is a clinical program with sites at The Mount Sinai Hospital on the Upper East Side and at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s on the Upper West Side. At CUE, we work with teenagers and young adults who are experiencing changes in their mood and behavior such as unusual thoughts and sensory experiences, social withdrawal, distress, and confused thinking. Patients at our clinic receive state-of-the-art evaluations and patient-centered, evidence-based treatment. Learn more about the Coping with Unique Experiences Program.

Research

We are heavily involved in research on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other psychotic spectrum disorders. We focus many of our current studies on data collection of diagnosis, clinical features, cognition, and biomarkers, as well as on clinical trials aimed at enhancing cognition.

Faculty

Dolores Malaspina, MD, MS, MSPH
Director, Critical Connections
Professor of Psychiatry
Professor of Neuroscience
Professor of Genetics and Genomic Sciences

Cheryl Corcoran, MD
Co-Director, Critical Connections
Program Leader in Psychosis Risk Studies
Co-Director of CUE
Associate Professor of Psychiatry

David Kimhy, PhD
Director of Research, Critical Connections
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Program Leader in New Interventions in Schizophrenia
Director, Experimental Psychopathology Lab

Mercedes Perez-Rodriguez, MD, PhD
Director of Clinical Research and Research Training, Critical Connections
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Director, Medical Student Clerkship
Assistant Training Director for Research
Social Cognition Section Co-Chief, Center for Affective Neuroscience

Yulia Landa, PhD 
Director of Psychosocial Interventions in Psychosis and Psychosis Risk, Critical Connections
Co- Director of CUE
Director of ICanFeelBetter - CBT for the Prevention and Treatment of Psychosis Research and Clinical

Erin Hazlett, PhD
Director of the Cognitive Psychophysiology Laboratory
Professor (Research) in Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Sophia Frangou, MD, PhD
Professor of Psychiatry