Schizophrenia Pathophysiology

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Understanding the pathophysiology of schizophrenia (or, in other words, the physiological processes that function abnormally in schizophrenics) is key to developing the most effective treatments for the disease, and is the ultimate goal of many schizophrenia researchers. While science is making impressive advances, there are still a number of unknowns when it comes to the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.

Dopamine

One hypothesis that has gained a lot of support is that there is something abnormal in the dopamine levels of the schizophrenic brain. While it seems clear that dopamine is implicated in some way in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, other neurotransmitters such as glutamate, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) may also play a role.

Brain Structure

Studies using neuroimaging technology have found structural abnormalities in parts of the schizophrenic brain, including the hippocampus, as well as abnormalities in how parts of the brain connect. Some studies have provided evidence that structural brain changes in schizophrenia may have their root in prenatal brain development.

Genetics

It is known that schizophrenia has a hereditary component, with those who have family members with the disease at an increased risk of developing it themselves. There are several genes that have been linked to a susceptibility to schizophrenia, but there doesn't appear to be one single gene variation that causes the disease.

What we do know about the pathophysiology of schizophrenia is that it is complex--no one model seems to fit perfectly, and there is evidence to support a variety of hypotheses. Most experts believe that a combination of genetic, environmental, and structural factors are involved in the development of schizophrenia, and researchers continue to strive to learn more.

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