April 12, 2005

Harvard on Schizophrenia

Read more... Schizophrenia Biology

There is an excellent overview of the current understanding of schizophrenia in the March issue of the "Harvard Mental Health Letter". If you can get your hands on it I highly recommend you do so.

Following are some short, interesting excerpts from the long paper:

" Most specialists believe schizophrenia is a developmental disorder that originates before birth and involves circuits in several regions of the brain. Through autopsies, molecular genetic studies, and technology that permits pictures of the living brain both at rest and in action, scientists are beginning to find out what has gone awry and why. They hope to target treatments to specific symptoms and genetic peculiarities, and ultimately to detect the disease at an early stage and maybe, some day, prevent it."

... Schizophrenia typicaly hits in the late teens and early twenties...

"   Often, though far from always, there are earlier signs. As long as five years before the first psychotic episode, many adolescents begin to undergo a subtle deterioration, with declining schoolwork, social isolation, depression, poor hygiene, odd beliefs, and unusual perceptions. Israeli researchers found that they could identify (in retrospect) 75% of all future cases of schizophrenia by evaluations given to men being tested for military service at ages 16-17. They used a formula that emphasized deficiencies in social competence and organizational ability.

    In another study, the risk of developing schizophrenia was 16 times higher than average for children who, when interviewed at age 11, agreed with one of the following statements: Someone is reading my mind; I have been receiving messages from my television set or radio; people are following me; I have heard a voice in my head."


"  In industrial countries, the rate of schizophrenia has been falling for the last 30 years or so, and some attribute this change to improvements in prenatal care or better protection against infectious disease."


"Scientists are also working on ways to develop treatments for distinct cognitive deficits in patients who have schizophrenia, including visual and verbal memory, problem-solving, and attention. The proposed targets are nerve receptors in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Someday the symptoms included in the definition of schizophrenia may be diagnosed and treated separately, with different drugs or psychosocial treatments -- one for perceptual disturbances, another for negative symptoms, and still others for disordered thinking.

... so many exciting areas of research are opening up that the prospect for understanding and treating schizophrenia has never been brighter."

SOURCE: Harvard Mental Health Letter, March 1, 2005
On the trail of schizophrenia. Scientists are tracing its roots in the genome and the brain.


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