New Insight Into the Schizophrenic Brain

A new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto, the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Tufts University School of Medicine, has uncovered a biochemical pathway that may change the way scientists look at schizophrenia.

The scientists looked at the effect of two proteins, NRG1 and ErbB4, on a brain receptor suspected of playing a role in schizophrenia. The receptor, NMDAR, is critical to brain functions like learning and memory, and it is known that drugs that block NMDARs cause hallucinations and disordered thought--symptoms of schizophrenia. The suspicion was that NRG1 and ErbB4, which have been genetically linked to schizophrenia, act to suppress NMDAR function.

However, the researchers discovered that NRG1 and ErbB4 affect NMDAR through a third protein, Src. Src normally increases NMDAR function as needed, but NRG1 and ErbB4 block Src and prevent this from happening. Blocking Src also reduces nerve cell responses to theta rhythm activity, another brain function impaired in people with schizophrenia.

This new information on the link between proteins is important, because it points out a new avenue of therapy for schizophrenia--targeting the proteins in a way that will enhance the Src boost of NMDARs. “This is a paradigm shift in the way that we view the neural mechanisms of schizophrenia,” said lead researcher Professor Michael Salter. “With our discovery we have brought together in a new way pieces of the schizophrenia puzzle. We hope that the understanding we have put together will lead to new forms of treatment that are more effective than the ones that are currently available.”

Read more: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-schizophrenia-uncover-underlying-mec...

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