Schizophrenics lose brain volume faster with antipsychotic medications

Taking antipsychotics is associated with a decrease in brain volume for schizophrenia patients, reports a new study in PLOS One.

The loss of volume occurs from a decrease in brain cells and connections, which can happen naturally with age. Yet people with schizophrenia lose brain volume at a faster rate, said the University of Cambridge researchers.

So should schizophrenia patients give up their antipsychotic medications because of potential brain volume loss?

Not at all, said study author Dr. Graham Murray.

"It's important to stress that the loss of brain volume doesn't appear to have any effect on people over the nine-year follow-up we conducted, and patients should not stop their medication on the basis of this research," he said.

Cognitive function not affected

The brain loss, which was seen when researchers compared the brain scans of 33 patients with schizophrenia with 71 control subjects, didn't affect patients' cognitive abilities.

Yet the higher the dose of the drugs, the more brain cell loss was seen, reports Health Day.

The findings might help to standardize guidelines about reducing antipsychotic dosages as schizophrenia patients get older, the researchers concluded.

"A key question in future will be to examine whether there is any effect of this loss of brain volume later in life. We need more research in larger studies with longer follow-ups to evaluate the significance of these brain changes," Murray said.

Source: Health Day
Image courtesty of nokhoog_buchachon/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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