By Dr. Minal Mistry, Psychiatrist
Schizophrenia and the brain.
Schizophrenia is a serious and enduring mental illness that affects 1% of the population worldwide. It usually starts in late teens or early 20’s and so it is prudent to identify symptoms at this early age. Symptoms are well known and include hallucinations, delusions and disorganized thinking which can be very distressing.
One of the challenges with this condition, and other psychiatric disorders, is understanding what is actually happening in the brain of people with Schizophrenia – something which is normally demonstrated by brain functional imaging research. The problem is that the patterns of changes in brain functioning in Schizophrenia is very variable, making it difficult to find any consistent marker that predicts the development of such psychotic illness.
New neuroscience research.
This is some serious research conducted by some serious researchers who are at leading edge of their specialty.
The researchers were from Yale University, together with colleagues from other institutions in North America.
They published new research in 2018 to explore more consistent markers for Schizophrenia…and the results are riveting…
Details of the research.
This new research obtained data from two studies:
From the second cohort the researchers analyzed people who had Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder (BD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in order to test how specific the changes were to those with Schizophrenia compared with those other psychiatric illnesses.
Outcome of the research.
To sum up in one line, the question and answer derived from this research:
QUESTION: “What are the fundamental brain functional alterations that lead to psychosis?”
ANSWER: “These findings suggest a state-independent functional neural signature that precedes and potentially predicts psychosis”.
This research is important as it is the first evidence for “cerebello-thalamo-cortical hypoconnectivity as a state-independent neural trait for psychosis prediction and characterization.”
What does all this mean?
These findings can be difficult to explain in layman terms.
The best way I can explain it is that the findings told us that the brains of people at risk of psychosis show a pattern which can help us to predict whether they will go onto develop Schizophrenia i.e. the research is providing evidence of early warning signs of people getting a serious psychotic illness.
Why is this important?
If we know who is likely to develop Schizophrenia, then we can monitor these individuals and begin intervention with treatments early. We know that “early intervention” of the treatment of psychotic illnesses, using a multidisciplinary approach, can be of benefit to people with this very disabling condition:
Therefore, I am hoping we see more advances of this type in the area of neuroscience, and I wonder how this type of research can be integrated into the role of Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) services across the world.
Cite this article as-
Minal Mistry (2018). Schizophrenia and the brain: early warning signs of psychosis.
The Beautiful Space-A Journal of Mind, Art and Poetry. November 2018: TBSB130
Please check author names highlighted with each article.
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