Wednesday, July 17, 2024

What Happens In The Brain To Cause Schizophrenia

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Can A Brain Scan Show Schizophrenia

What is Schizophrenia?

Yes, a brain scan can show schizophrenia. Different abnormalities in the brain anatomy associate with certain symptoms of this psychological disorder and not others. Researchers state that the discovery was founded on MRI scans of 36 healthy people and 47 people with this kind of psychological disorder and there is a need to provide more evidence that this kind of psychological disorder is a heterogeneous group of disorders groups of disorders rather than a single disorder. 

Modelling Psychosis: The Use Of Animal Models

Potentially, the most useful avenue for animal models to assist in schizophrenia research will be identifying convergent aetiological pathways. Understanding which neurotransmitter systems and brain regions are most involved may help to identify the core neurobiological features of schizophrenia. For example, changes in dopaminergic systems are observed in animal models after manipulation of factors based on schizophrenia epidemiology, , genetics, pharmacology and related hypotheses. These include changes in early dopamine specification factors, , sensitivities to psychostimulants,,, and alterations in dopamine neurochemistry,,, . Evidence of subcortical dopaminergic hyperactivity or sensitivity in animal models is proposed to represent the face validity for psychosis in patients. The most commonly used behavioural assessments of positive symptoms in animal models include enhanced amphetamine-induced locomotion and deficits in prepulse inhibition . These tests are widely used because they are relatively simple to perform. However, we propose that given current knowledge of the neurobiology in schizophrenia, they have outlived their usefulness as measures of positive symptoms.

Changes In Brain Morphology Synapses And Nerve Fibers

Now, how should volume changes of schizophrenic brains observed in brain images be understood? Selemon et al.) estimated that volume changes of schizophrenic brains are due to insufficient development of cell bodies and the neuronal processes of schizophrenic nerve cells, which lead to reductions in the thickness of the cortex. They propounded this as the “reduced neuropil hypothesis.” The neuropil in the cortex is basically composed of axons, dendrites, and pre- and post-synaptic organs. Decreased dendritic spines of pyramidal cell neuronal processes and decreased lengths of the dendrites in the cortex of the frontal and temporal lobes in schizophrenia cases have been reported . In addition, decreases in the markers for synapses, synaptophysin, SNAP-25, MAP-2, synapsin, synataxin, complexin I & II, GAP43, etc., have also been reported . Electrophysiological and neuropsychological studies have also associated these phenomena with failures in the dynamic interactions within the brain in schizophrenia cases. In addition, in electron-microscopic observations, abnormalities of synaptic density and accumulation, as well as morphological abnormalities of the dendritic spines, have been reported.) Common cerebral sites in which these abnormalities are reported include the hippocampal region, the dorsolateral prefrontal area, and the anterior cingulate gyrus cortex, and it has been reported that presynaptic markers are decreased in these sites.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Schizophrenia

Each person may feel symptoms differently. These are the most common symptoms:

  • False beliefs not based on reality

  • Seeing, hearing, smelling, or feeling things that are not real

  • Disorganized speech and behavior

  • Feeling like someone or something is out to get them

  • Withdrawal from others

  • Inflated self worth

These symptoms can make it very hard to function in the world and take care of yourself. People with this illness are usually not violent.

The symptoms of schizophrenia may look like other problems or mental health conditions. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Can We Objectively Test Positive Symptom Connectivity In Rodents

Schizophrenia and the Risks of Substance Abuse

Clearly, alternative behavioural phenotypes in animal models, consistent with the underlying neuroanatomical/biological features of schizophrenia, need to be established. This does not invalidate our current rodent models; it just emphasises that, in light of the recent compelling PET evidence in patients, we need to review their relevance to the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Psychosis, an extremely human syndrome, will never be truly observable in rodents. However, we can, and should, aim to establish more translationally relevant tests for the underlying neurobiology of psychosis. Ultimately, we need better behavioural tests for positive symptoms in animal models that will lead to therapies efficacious for both positive and cognitive symptoms in patients. We contend that tests aimed at understanding associative striatal function are imperative. We propose that a combination of cognitive behavioural tasks, that can be tested similarly in humans and rodents , represents our best opportunity to assess positive symptom neurobiology in animal models. It is important to consider that neither task alone is a reliable indicator of positive symptom neurobiology ; however, in combination they can help isolate associative striatal function.

Fig. 4: Comparisons for cognitive tests in humans and rodents.

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Stress And The Hypothalamic

The elevated glucocorticoid levels associated with chronic stress that patients with schizophrenia manifest may also contribute to the smaller brain tissue volumes observed. Effects of stress and glucocorticoids on hippocampal and ventricular volumes have been demonstrated in animal models and in humans with Cushings syndrome, and these are known to be at least partially reversible., In patients with a FEP, cortisol levels have been found to be raised and to correlate inversely with hippocampal volumes.

What Are The Symptoms Of Schizophrenia And How Is It Diagnosed

How is schizophrenia diagnosed?

Only a psychiatrist can diagnose you with schizophrenia after a full psychiatric assessment. You may have to see the psychiatrist a few times before they diagnose you. This is because they need to see how often you are experiencing symptoms.

There are currently no blood tests or scans that can prove if you have schizophrenia. So, psychiatrists use manuals to diagnose schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

The 2 main manuals used by medical professionals are the:

  • International Classification of Diseases which is produced by the World Health Organisation , or
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual which is produced by the American Psychiatric Association .

NHS doctors use the ICD-10.

The manuals explain which symptoms should be present, and for how long for you to receive a diagnosis. For example, according to the NHS you need to be hearing voices for at least 1 month before you can be diagnosed. Mental health professionals may say you have psychosis before they diagnose you with schizophrenia.

What is the future of diagnosis in schizophrenia?There are many research studies being conducted across the world on how to better diagnose schizophrenia. For example, a recent study found through looking at images of the brain, there may be different sub-types of schizophrenia.

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

The symptoms of schizophrenia are commonly described as positive symptoms or negative symptoms. This doesnt mean that they are good or bad.

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The Time Course Of Cognitive Deficits

When cognitive deficits are first present and whether there is some stage of the illness during which they progress have been areas of intensive study., Cognitive deficits have been clearly demonstrated at the time of the FEP.,, Cognition has been demonstrated to remain stable or improve, rather than deteriorate following a FEP. The improvement reported in some studies may reflect practice effects rather than real improvement. Nevertheless, there is a consensus that this improvement plateaus following a FEP or FES, after which cognition does not worsen over time beyond what can be expected with normal aging.,, Whether elderly patients with schizophrenia may experience a phase of cognitive decline that is of greater slope than that observed in otherwise healthy people, remains a possibility that requires further investigation.

In accord with the above, individuals considered to be at clinical high risk for psychosis have been demonstrated to have significant cognitive deficits with those who eventually develop psychosis having greater deficits than those who do not. However, studies by Keefe et al and Becker et al were not able to demonstrate any further deterioration in cognition in those at-risk subjects who subsequently transitioned to psychosis. The potential for such studies to identify significant deterioration in cognition has been limited by their small sample sizes and their identification of at-risk subjects late in the prodromal phase.

Living With And Managing Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia – causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment & pathology

Living with schizophrenia can be challenging as with any chronic condition but managing and living well with schizophrenia is possible.

The best way to do this is to find and follow a treatment plan thats right for you, acknowledge your condition and educate others, and have a support system for when challenges come up.

The aim of healthcare professionals is to help keep you out of the hospital and prevent future episodes or relapses. Working closely with your healthcare team and keeping them informed of any symptoms or changes can help.

Some people may turn to using substances like drugs or alcohol to help manage or avoid symptoms of their condition. This can lead to different problems, so reach out to your doctor if you believe youre relying on substances for relief.

You dont need to go it alone. Its often very helpful to have the support of family, friends, or other people with schizophrenia. Find support groups through the National Alliance on Mental Illness .

Theres a lot that goes into managing schizophrenia be proud of the work and effort you put into living with and managing your condition.

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How Is Schizophrenia Treated

Managing schizophrenia is a lifelong process. It can’t be cured. But symptoms can often be managed with medicine and therapy. Often, more than 1 method is needed. Types of treatment that may be helpful include:

  • Antipsychotic medicines. These are the main medicines used to reduce the most troubling symptoms such as delusions and paranoia.

  • Other medicines. These may include antidepressants or other mood stabilizers.

  • Therapy. Individual and family therapy .

  • Training. These may include learning social skills, job skills, or structured activity.

  • Self-help and support groups.

Early treatment and supportive services helps affected people live productive lives. It’s very important to take medicines exactly as prescribed and to keep taking them even if you feel better. Many people may still have some symptoms, even with treatment. At times, symptoms may get worse and treatment will need to be adjusted.

Always see your healthcare provider for more information.

What Myths Are There About Schizophrenia

There are some myths or mistaken beliefs about schizophrenia which come from the media. For example,

  • Schizophrenia means someone has a split personality

This is not the case. The mistake may come from the fact that the name ‘schizophrenia’ comes from two Greek words meaning ‘split’ and ‘mind’.

  • Schizophrenia causes people to be violent

Research shows that only a small number of people with the illness may become violent. The same way as a small minority of the general public may become violent.

People with schizophrenia are far more likely to be harmed by other people than other people are to be harmed by them. But as these incidents can be shocking, the media often report them in a way which emphasises the mental health diagnosis. This can create fear and stigma in the general public.

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Box 1: Symptom Groups In Schizophrenia

  • Positive symptoms

    : Positive symptoms include delusions and hallucinations, linked to aberrant salience. These symptoms are most recognisable during periods of acute psychosis.

  • Cognitive symptoms

    : Impairments in learning, memory, attention and executive functioning are all included as cognitive symptoms.

  • Negative symptoms: Negative symptoms include blunting of affect , avolition and social withdrawal.

It is widely acknowledged that we cannot recreate the complicated symptom profile of schizophrenia in animal models. However, animal models provide an avenue to invasively explore the role of neurotransmitters and circuitry in psychiatric diseases. To improve the poor predictive validity of treatments in animal models, it is critical that our understanding and the use of animal models evolves alongside our knowledge of schizophrenia neurobiology. The delayed incorporation of new clinical findings to develop better animal models highlights the need for better communication between clinical and basic research communities.

In this article, we discuss the challenges clinicians and researchers are facing in understanding the neurobiology of positive symptoms and psychosis in schizophrenia. We discuss the implications this has for current assessments of positive symptoms in rodents and propose a more relevant set of tests for future study. Finally, the need for a joint focus on bi-directional translation between clinical and basic research is outlined.

Lack Of Brain Tissue Found In Schizophrenic Patients

New study finds evidence for reduced brain connections in ...

Scans from the patients first episode revealed that they had less brain tissue, compared with healthy individuals without the disorder.

The researchers say this finding suggests that something is affecting the brains of those with schizophrenia before they demonstrate obvious symptoms of the conditions.

Prof. Andreasen explains:

There are several studies, mine included, that show people with schizophrenia have smaller-than-average cranial size.

Since cranial development is completed within the first few years of life, there may be some aspect of earliest development perhaps things such as pregnancy complications or exposure to viruses that on average, affected people with schizophrenia.

The brain scans also showed that those who suffer from schizophrenia demonstrated the highest tissue loss in the first 2 years after their first episode, after which point it slowed down significantly.

Prof. Andreasen says that this finding may help doctors to identify the most effective time periods to prevent tissue loss in schizophrenic patients, as well as other effects caused by the disorder.

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Brain And Body Risk Factors

Developmental theories of schizophrenia suggest that something goes wrong when the brain is developing. Brain development, from the earliest stage of fetal development, the early years of life and through adolescence, is an extremely complicated process. Millions of neurons are formed, migrate to different regions of the forming brain, and specialize to perform different functions.

The something that goes wrong might be a viral infection, a hormonal imbalance, an error in genetic encoding, a nutritional stress, or something else. The common element in all developmental theories is that the causal event occurs during the brains development.

Even though these potential causes may be rooted in very early development, symptoms of schizophrenia typically emerge in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Schizophrenia Brain: Impact Of Schizophrenia On The Brain

While researchers and physicians can see the presence of abnormalities associated with schizophrenia in the brain by using Magnetic Resonance Imagery and Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy , theres no real test for diagnosing the mental illness. In other words, if you are at risk for diabetes, doctors have definitive tests they can use to predict your risk and to monitor progression of the disease, if already present. Nothing like this exists for predicting and monitoring schizophrenia.

Even so, the schizophrenia brain scans produced by sophisticated machines, like the MRIs and MRSs mentioned above, indicate structural differences in certain areas of the brain of affected people.

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Is It Possible To Recover From Schizophrenia

Many people who live with schizophrenia have recovery journeys that lead them to live meaningful lives.

Recovery can be thought of in terms of:

  • clinical recovery, and
  • personal recovery.

What is clinical recovery?

Your doctor might have talked to you about recovery. Some doctors and health professionals think of recovery as:

  • no longer having mental illness symptoms, or
  • where your symptoms are controlled by treatment to such a degree that they are not significantly a problem.

Sometimes this is called clinical recovery.

Everyones experience of clinical recovery is different.

  • Some people completely recover from schizophrenia and go on to be symptom free.
  • Some who live with schizophrenia can improve a great deal with ongoing treatment.
  • Some improve with treatment but need ongoing support from mental health and social services.

What is personal recovery?

Dealing with symptoms is important to a lot of people. But some people think that recovery is wider than this. We call this personal recovery.

Personal recovery means that you can live a meaningful life.

What you think of as being a meaningful life might be different to how other people see it. You can think about what you would like to do to live a meaningful life and work towards that goal.

Below are some ways you can think of recovery.

What can help me recover?

You may want to think about the following questions.

The following things can be important in recovery.

The Default Mode Network In Schizophrenia Brain

What is schizophrenia? – Anees Bahji

Our default mode network is when we are living life in an automatic standstill where we are still able to do tasks that happen daily in our lives. For instance, we are already aware that we need to do household chores or if you are someone who likes to play sports, you are more likely to play in this mode.People with this affected brain are less likely to have this mode functional in their lives. This will mean that they will still have a hard time doing time despite doing it every day in their lives already.

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Challenges In Diagnosing Schizophrenia

Psychiatric symptoms exist on continua from normal to pathological, meaning the threshold for diagnosis of schizophrenia in clinical practice can be challenging. The clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia relies heavily on the positive symptoms associated with a prolonged psychotic episode. However, a relatively high percentage of the general population report delusional experiences or hallucinations in their lifetime,,, but for most people these are transient. Psychotic symptoms are also not specific to a particular mental disorder. The clinical efficacy of antipsychotic drugs is heavily correlated with their ability to block subcortical dopamine D2 receptors, , suggesting dopamine signalling is important. In spite of this, no consistent relationship between D2 receptors and the pathophysiology of schizophrenia has emerged, . In contrast, the clinical evidence points towards presynaptic dopamine dysfunction as a mediator of psychosis in schizophrenia.

The Brain In Schizophrenia

Physical changes in the brain have been identified in some people with schizophrenia. The analysis of brain tissue after death has revealed a number of structural abnormalities, and new brain-imaging techniques have revealed changes in both the structure and function of the brain during life. Techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging reveal changes in the size of different parts of the brain, especially in the temporal lobes. The fluid-filled spaces in the interior of the temporal lobes are often enlarged and the temporal lobe tissue diminished. The greater the observed changes the greater the severity of the persons thought disorder and his or her auditory hallucinations.

Some imaging techniques, such as positron emission tomography , measure the actual functioning of the brain and provide a similar picture of abnormality. PET scanning reveals hyperactivity in the temporal lobes, particularly in the hippocampus, a part of the temporal lobe concerned with orientation and very short-term memory. Another type of functional imaging, electrophysiological brain recording using EEG tracings, shows that most people with schizophrenia seem to be excessively responsive to repeated environmental stimuli and more limited in their ability to blot out irrelevant information. In line with this finding, those parts of the brain that are supposed to screen out irrelevant stimuli, such as the frontal lobe, show decreased activity on PET scan.

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What Are The Types Of Schizophrenia

There are different types of schizophrenia. The International Classification of Diseases manual describes them as below.

Paranoid schizophrenia

  • Pranks, giggling and health complaints.
  • Usually diagnosed in adolescents or young adults.

Catatonic schizophrenia

  • Unusual movements, often switching between being very active and very still.
  • You may not talk at all.

Simple schizophrenia

  • Negative symptoms are prominent early and get worse quickly.
  • Positive symptoms are rare.

Undifferentiated schizophrenia

Your diagnosis may have some signs of paranoid, hebephrenic or catatonic schizophrenia, but doesnt obviously fit into one of these types alone.

Residual schizophrenia

This type of schizophrenia is diagnosed in the later stages of schizophrenia. You may be diagnosed with this if you have a history of schizophrenia but only continue to experience negative symptoms.

Other schizophrenia

There are other types of schizophrenia according to the ICD-10, such as.

  • Cenesthopathic schizophrenia. This is where people experience unusual bodily sensations.
  • Schizophreniform. Schizophreniform disorder is a type of psychotic illness with symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia. But symptoms last for a short period.

Unspecified schizophrenia

Symptoms meet the general conditions for a diagnosis, but do not fit in to any of the above categories.

What Happens To The Body And Brain Of Individuals With Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia: Reality VS Illusion

Richard C. Deth, a professor of Pharmaceutical Science at Northeastern University, provides this answer:

Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder in which previously normal cognitive abilities and behaviors becomes disturbed. The most common age of onset is just after reaching adulthood, typically the late-teens to the mid-thirties. It is manifested either by so-called positive symptoms or by negative symptoms, including a marked lack of activity, loss of interest and unresponsiveness.

Although the precise cause of schizophrenia remains unknown, an enormous amount of research has come up with a number of possibilities. Many early theories focused on behavioral or stress-induced events, but more recently, consensus holds that underlying biochemical abnormalities are more likely the cause. Lending great support to this idea is the fact that genetic predisposition may account for 50 percent of the risk of developing schizophrenia. Not surprisingly, these biochemical hypotheses center on dysfunction of the neurotransmitter systems in the brain, which provide for normal cognition and attention. The main theories include the Dopamine Hypothesis, the NMDA Receptor Hypothesis, the Single-carbon Hypothesis and the Membrane Hypothesis. And new research from our laboratory suggests that elements from each of these theories may play a role in schizophrenia.

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What Risks And Complications Can Schizophrenia Cause

Physical health

Research suggests that people with serious mental illness , such as schizophrenia, have a shorter life expectancy. People with mental illness may die 15 to 20 years earlier than the general population. This may because people who live with SMI are at higher risk of having a range of health issues. Such as being overweight, having heart disease, smoking and diabetes.

Because of these issues, NICE recommends that when you start taking antipsychotic medication, your doctor should do a full range of physical health checks. This should include weight, blood pressure and other blood tests. These checks should be repeated regularly.

Mental health professionals are responsible for doing these checks for the first year of treatment. Responsibility may then pass to your GP. Your doctor or mental health team should offer you a programme which combines healthy eating and physical health checks. You should be supported by a healthcare professional to help stop smoking.


The risk of suicide is increased for people with schizophrenia. Research indicates that around 513% of people who live with with schizophrenia die by suicide.

Research has found that the increased risk is not usually because of positive symptoms. The risk of suicide is associated more to affective symptoms, such as low mood.

Key risk factors for suicide include:

  • previous suicide attempts,

What If I Am Not Happy With My Treatment

If you are not happy with your treatment you can:

  • talk to your doctor about your treatment options,
  • ask for a second opinion,
  • get an advocate to help you speak to your doctor,
  • contact Patient Advice and Liaison Service and see whether they can help, or
  • make a complaint.

There is more information about these options below.

Treatment options

You should first speak to your doctor about your treatment. Explain why you are not happy with it. You could ask what other treatments you could try.

Tell your doctor if there is a type of treatment that you would like to try. Doctors should listen to your preference. If you are not given this treatment, ask your doctor to explain why it is not suitable for you.

Second opinion

A second opinion means that you would like a different doctor to give their opinion about what treatment you should have. You can also ask for a second opinion if you disagree with your diagnosis.

You dont have a right to a second opinion. But your doctor should listen to your reason for wanting a second opinion.


An advocate is independent from the mental health service. They are free to use. They can be useful if you find it difficult to get your views heard.

There are different types of advocates available. Community advocates can support you to get a health professional to listen to your concerns. And help you to get the treatment that you would like.

The Patient Advice and Liaison Service


You can find out more about:

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