February 23, 2004

Environmental Factors in Schizophrenia

Pathways to schizophrenia: the impact of environmental factors - Recent research further supports many environmental factors in schizophrenia that have been reported on in the past:

"Schizophrenic individuals inherit genes that cause structural brain deviations which may be compounded by early environmental insults. As a result some pre-schizophrenic children exhibit subtle developmental delays, cognitive problems, or poor interpersonal relationships. "

These children are susceptible to dysregulation of dopamine, which can lead to the onset of a psychotic illness. Dopamine dysregulation may arise through a process of sensitization. In animal research this can be caused by repeated administration of dopamine-releasing drugs.

It is clear that the same process occurs in humans, and that some individuals are particularly sensitive to the effects of such drugs for either genetic reasons or through early environmental damage.

Stress has also been shown to induce dopamine release in animal studies, and epidemiological studies have demonstrated that social stresses can precipitate schizophrenia. Thus, stresses, such as drug use and social adversity, in adolescence or early adult life may propel the neurodevelopmentally impaired individual over a threshold into [full] psychosis."

Source: International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, March Issue, 2004
This seems to suggest that families with a history of schizophrenia (i.e. where someone has been diagnosed with schizophrenia - or a related disease - in the past) would want to tray to avoid those environmental factors that could "trigger" schizophrenia. For more information on this, please see our page on Preventing Schizophrenia.


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