Mental health awareness: Brain cell deficit can trigger schizophrenia

Mental health awareness: Brain cell deficit can trigger schizophrenia

It is the brain cell which in all likelihood can contribute to the development of one of the severe mental disorders, schizophrenia. Results of experiments on mice may help shed light on some of the harder-to-treat symptoms of schizophrenia in humans, a new study by the researchers at Columbia University suggests.

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and acts. Although it’s not as common as other mental disorders, it can be very disabling. Approximately seven or eight Americans out of 1,000 will have schizophrenia in their lifetime, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) highlights on its website. It says that there is no precise figure for the number of first episodes of psychosis each year in the U.S., but incidence data from other countries suggest that around 100,000 people per year have a first onset of psychosis in the United States. Results from the NIMH RAISE (Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode) Early Treatment Program study, conducted at 34 sites across 21 states.

Hidden cause of schizophrenia

Researchers at the Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), New York, and the Université Paris Descartes, France made a striking discovery that decrease in a specific type of brain cells – known as inhibitory neurons – in a tiny area of the hippocampus can trigger schizophrenia.

Vivien Chevaleyre, Ph.D., group leader in neuroscience at the Université Paris Descartes, and colleagues conducted a series of electrophysiological and behavioral experiments on a mouse model of schizophrenia developed at CUMC. While examining the rodents’ brains, the researchers discovered a significant decrease in inhibitory CA2 neurons as compared to a controlled group of normal, healthy mice. Moreover, according to the study published in the January 6, 2016 edition of the journal Neuron, this change was similar to what has been observed in post-mortem examinations of people with schizophrenia.

In addition to these results, it was also seen that the schizophrenic mice had a reduced capacity of social memory as compared to the healthy ones. This shows that any changes to the CA2 neurons can lead to certain behavioral changes which are identifiable with schizophrenic symptoms. The researchers also emphasized on the fact that there have been several studies on almost every part of the hippocampus in a quest to learn more about schizophrenia. However, CA2 – a tiny region in the hippocampus – has mostly been overlooked and that is where the loss of inhibitory neurons occurs.

The authors opine that such a study opens the door to better understanding of the mechanisms that lead to social withdrawal, reduced motivation, and decreased emotional capacity, all common features seen in schizophrenia patients.

Another study, done by the researchers at Yale University, reflected that brain irregularities are present before a person develops schizophrenia. Lead author Alan Anticevic, assistant professor of psychiatry, said in a news release that before this study they were not aware if the pattern for schizophrenia was a result of the disease or a potential byproduct of medication or some other factor. The researchers also stated that abnormalities already exist in people who are at a higher risk for developing psychosis. These results were obtained after the researchers analyzed the brains of 243 people with early warning signs of schizophrenia and 154 healthy people, and then followed both groups for two years.

Treatment options

Psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy or supportive psychotherapy can help reduce symptoms. A variety of antipsychotic medications are also effective in reducing the psychotic symptoms present in the acute phase of the illness, and they also help reduce the potential for future acute episodes in a patient. In fact, psychotherapy can also help people manage the illness by learning to be socially adaptive and coping up with stress. Emotional support from the family is extremely important during the treatment.

If you or your loved one has signs of schizophrenia, please don’t hesitate in seeking medical help. Sovereign Mental Health Services has one of the best treatment procedures and therapies to assist an individual suffering from this disorder. For more information, please call our 24/7 helpline number 866-954-0529.

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