Brain Changes Occur as At-Risk People Develop Schizophrenia

Two new research studies, recently published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, both found that people at a high risk for schizophrenia suffer brain changes in the years leading up to emergence of the disease.

Study 1

Both studies examined the brains of individuals known to be at a high risk for developing schizophrenia before they developed psychosis. The first study looked at people with a certain chromosome deletion that often results in psychotic disorders (including schizophrenia). MRI scans during adolescence showed that individuals who went on to develop psychosis also suffered from progressive deficits in gray matter in the brain's temporal cortex during adolescence.

Study 2

The second study repeatedly examined a group of young adults over the course of a decade, conducting both sessions with a psychiatrist and structural brain scans. The researchers found that those with schizophrenic family members (making them at high risk for schizophrenia) had greater reduction in the volume of certain structures of the brain when compared to those with no genetic vulnerability to the disease. Among those who actually developed schizophrenia, there were addition reductions in the brain's frontal lobe.

What does this mean?

These studies show that there are progressive changes in brain structure that tend to go along with the development of schizophrenia, which indicates that schizophrenia is an ongoing process. Eventually, it might be possible to predict the course of schizophrenia emergence through brain scans, and develop treatments that can block the process of brain changes before schizophrenia symptoms emerge.

Read more: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-05-brain-track-vulnerable-individuals...

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