AUG 14, 2015 10:04 AM PDT

Brain Abnormalities and Schizophrenia

A potential marker for schizophrenia manifests itself in key brain areas well before the debilitating disease that afflicts 1 percent of the world’s population begins, usually manifesting itself in young adulthood, according to a new study, published online Aug. 12 in the journal, JAMA Psychiatry, and reported in Bioscience Technology. The Yale University study shows that schizophrenia is “associated with marked alterations in connections between the thalamus, a major relay system in the brain, and the frontal cortex, which is involved in higher-level cognitive functions."
Yale researchers believe that they can detect brain markers of schizophrenia before it begins. 
Alan Anticevic, assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author of the paper, explained, “Up until this study, we did not know whether this pattern was a result of the disease or a potential byproduct of medication or some other factor. We show these same abnormalities already exist in people who are at higher risk for developing psychosis.”
 
According to Tyrone Cannon, professor of psychology and senior author of the study, while schizophrenia often develops late in adolescence or early adulthood, it is usually presaged by some early warning signs, including “mild suspicion, a perception that outside stimuli carry a special personal significance or hearing a voice calling the individual’s name.” If chronic schizophrenia is not treated, the symptoms get worse and can become debilitating. Scientists are uncertain about which brain mechanisms cause its onset.
 
The international multi-site study included whole-brain functional connectivity maps of 243 people who had early warning symptoms and 154 healthy subjects. They were followed for two years. Researchers discovered “a decrease in functional connectivity between the thalamus and prefrontal cortex regions in the at-risk group that was particularly pronounced in those who went on to develop full psychosis.” The at-risk group “had excess connectivity between thalamus and sensory areas of the brain.” The researchers explained that the pattern viewed during the early stages of heightened risk looked like the changes noted in more chronic patients.
 
While Cannon believes that additional research must be done to definitively cite disrupted functional connectivity between the thalamus and frontal cortex as a cause of schizophrenia, he said that the Yale research findings are in line with the concept that people who develop schizophrenia “experience an excessive reduction in synaptic connections between brain cells that normally occur during adolescence.”
 
Schizophrenia is a serious disorder of the mind and brain but it is also highly treatable. Although there is no cure for schizophrenia, the treatment success rate with antipsychotic medications can be high. If the appropriate level of investment is made in research, it had been estimated that a cure for schizophrenia could be found by 2013. However, schizophrenia has only received a small fraction of the amount of medical research dollars that go into other serious diseases and disorders, according to Schizophrenia.com.
About the Author
  • Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
You May Also Like
AUG 30, 2018
Neuroscience
AUG 30, 2018
This Is Not Ordinary Rehab
When Amy Winehouse sang "They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no" she was referring to substance abuse treatment. Rehab could mean a...
SEP 01, 2018
Videos
SEP 01, 2018
Modeling the Blood Brain Barrier on a Chip
Organ chips are great for studying parts of the human body that are challenging to explore....
SEP 05, 2018
Videos
SEP 05, 2018
What makes a habit?
What is a habit? A habit is something that you do sub-consciously, whether it be something that you want to do or something you don't. But how do you f...
OCT 31, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 31, 2018
Study Suggests Extinct Elephant Birds Were Nocturnal and Nearly Blind
Elephant birds were massive birds that went extinct a long time ago. Some estimates suggest the last of the species perished some 500 to 1,000 years ago, b...
NOV 10, 2018
Cannabis Sciences
NOV 10, 2018
One Month Abstinence Improves Memory
A recent study from The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry ...
NOV 14, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 14, 2018
Understanding Left-Right Dominance in the Brain
There are many common misconceptions about science, one of which is the belief that someone can be called right- or left-brained....
Loading Comments...