Link between Diabetes and Schizophrenia

A recent study conducted at the Medical Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee shows a link between diabetes and the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses.

The researchers observed mice that exhibited behaviors similar to those often observed in schizophrenic individuals. These particular mice had impaired insulin signals in their brains. Insulin is the hormone that controls how the body metabolizes blood glucose.

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Dr. Aurelio Galli and his team were one of the first research groups to discover that insulin also regulates dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with attention, reward, and motor function. It is believed to play a significant role in schizophrenia, depression, and other disorders.

The research team also showed that the abnormal insulin signaling caused higher levels of norepinephrine and lower levels of dopamine in an area of the brain that affects cognition – the prefrontal cortex. Negative symptoms of schizophrenia, such as social withdrawal, as well as cognitive problems are believed to be caused in part by reduced dopamine activity in the cortex.

When the scientists gave the mice NET inhibitors, their dopamine levels returned to normal, as did their behavior. NET is a transporter protein that was elevated in the brains of the mice and caused the dopamine levels to drop.

Studying this connection between insulin activity and dopamine levels in the brain could lead to new methods of treating schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.

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Innovative Schizophrenia Treatment.
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