The Schizophrenic Brain

Described as a disease that has fascinated the minds of those studying psychiatry and neuroscience for more than a century, schizophrenia remains a puzzle.

It is believed that schizophrenia involves abnormalities in normal brain development. The image shown compares the schizophrenic brain to that of a non schizophrenic brain. Notice the enlarged brain ventricles (fluid-filled cavities inside the brain) in the schizophrenic brain. In addition, severe loss of gray matter can also be observed in high resolution magnetic residence image (MRI) scans.

Brain Structure
The frontal cortex (located at the front of each cerebral hemisphere) contains most of the dopamine-sensitive neurons in the cerebral cortex. The thalamus (located near the center of the brain) functions by relaying sensory and motor signals to the cerebral cortex. Both are thought to be possible locations in the brain that are affected with the disease schizophrenia.

Understanding Synaptic Transmissions
Brain function relies on information flow from one neuron to another, a process that takes place primarily in structures called synapses. The dysfunction in synaptic transmissions leads to brain and behavior disorders, including schizophrenia. Understanding the molecular mechanism of synaptic release will allow researchers to investigate how the brain functions, and conversely, to understand how it can dysfunction.

Need for More Research
Findings point to a crucial need for more brain research. Combining brain imaging and genetic studies to understand what factors increase the risk of developing schizophrenia is a good start.

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