November 16, 2004

How Stress Can Worsen Symptoms

Read more... Schizophrenia Biology

Researchers have recently suggested how an overactive protein (protein kinase C, or PKC) in the brain can cuase disturbed thinking, impaired judgement, impulsivity, and distractibility when a person is under stress.

As explained by Dr. Arnsten, one of the researchers on the project, activation of PKC can cause a reduction in memory-related cell firing, particularly in the prefrontal cortex. This, in turn, makes it harder for a person to hold on to information and memories from moment to moment. Protein kinase C can be activated by even mild stress.

The tendency for kinase overactivity seems to be mediated by an abnormal gene found in some patients with bipolar disorder. Overactivity of PKC may also be present in schizophrenia patients as well.

Scientists are looking at the possibility of a fast-acting protein kinase C inhibitor drug as a future treatment for such cognitive symptoms. Antipsychotics, currently used to treat both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, block certain receptors in the brain that activate PKC.

Until such a treatment is found, people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can take steps in their own lives to reduce their exposure to stress. Family and friends can also help to create a low-key, low-stress environment. Read about the importance of avoiding excessive emotion and stress (

For the full news story, see "Stress Impairs Thinking Via Mania-Linked Enzyme" (Nov 3 2004). Available at


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