Impaired illness awareness is a well-recognized, but understudied phenomenon that contributes to minimization and denial of the need for treatment with devastating clinical and social consequences. Dr. Gerretsen’s research has focused on the identification of the neural correlates of impaired illness awareness in schizophrenia primarily through structural and functional neuroimaging. The results have provided prospective biomarkers and regional brain targets for intervention psychotherapeutically and with noninvasive neurostimulation, such as transcranial direct current, magnetic and vestibular stimulation. The next step is to extend this work to other neuropsychiatric and medical conditions that can feature impaired illness awareness, including neurodegenerative disorders, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and addictions. The relevance of this work lies in the potential to alter individuals’ attitude toward their illness and treatment. This would lead ultimately to an improvement in individuals’ capacity for illness recognition and engagement in treatment, which would, in turn, have a significant impact on disease management.
Philip Gerretsen, M.S.W., M.D., Ph.D., FRCPC is a clinician-scientist with the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and at the University Health Network (UHN). He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Dr. Gerretsen has a Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada subspecialty designation as a Geriatric Psychiatrist. He has completed his PhD in the areas of neuroscience/neuroimaging/psychiatry through the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. He has also completed clinical fellowships in Psychosomatic Medicine through UHN and Geriatric Psychiatry through CAMH at the University of Toronto.