May 28, 2005

Highlights from Schizophrenia Research Conference

A summary of research findings presented at the International Conference on Schizophrenia Research (April 2-6 2005, in Savannah, GA) is available from Medscape ( The following are a few salient points from the report, many of which has also reported on in recent months, and which are available in our news archives.

1. Much research has been done to identify pre-natal risk factors for schizophrenia. According to a scientist from Perth, Australia (where one of the first studies of mothers with schizophrenia and their offspring has recently been completed), studies have identified obstetric events that can increase the risk of schizophrenia in the offspring by 2- to 7-fold. has recently reported on such pre-natal risk factors as increased exposure to Cat Virus, infections during pregnancy, exposure to x-rays or lead, and increased age of the father. (Please note that these are correlations, not causational factors. None of these appear to cause schizophrenia, they are simply related in some way). The good news is that many or all of these risks can be avoided - see for more details. Even risk from genetic inheritance may be controlled somewhat by seeking analysis of your family health background from a genetic counselor, and/or creating a "Health Family Tree" to determine your probable risk.

2. Scientists from the Institute of Psychiatry in London reported research on the link between increased psychosis and cannabis use, something that has seen numerous articles on within the last six months. The evidence supporting this correlation appears to be very strong.

3. Epidemiological studies show that schizophrenia does not affect all worldwide populations equally. According to scientist John McGrath of Australia, who reviewed 843 published and 41 unpublished reports to obtain his data, reported that schizophrenia has a higher incidence in developed countries, among immigrant populations (as opposed to native-born residents), and among men.

4. NIMH Scientist Dr. Wayne Fenton reported on the MATRICS initiative, a collaborative effort between the NIMH, UCLA, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to move forward treatments targeted at the cognitive aspects of schizophrenia. Recently the MATRICS initiative identified seven cognitive domains that are most affected in schizohprenia: speed of processing, verbal learning and memory, visual learning and memory, executive function, attention and vigilance, working memory, and social cognition. Future federal clinical trials of cognitive treatments for schizophrenia will use the tests developed by the MATRICS committee, based upon the above seven domains, for a more standardized measure of efficacy.

5. Dr. Robert Buchanan of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center reported on several promising cognitive enhancers that are being clinically tested for their use in schizophrenia treatment. The two "frontrunners", according to Dr. Buchanan, are ispronicline (nicotinic receptor partial agonist), and ORG 24448 (modulator of AMPA glutamate receptors).

Please see the Medscape Article Highlights of the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research ( for the full report. Viewing may require a free registration.


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