August 02, 2005

Atypicals Curb Loss of Brain Cells

A new study has come out suggesting that the antipsychotic drug olanzapine keeps those with schizophrenia from losing grey matter from the brain; the older drug haloperidol apparently does not have the same benefits. We believe that this study was likely funded by the Eli Lilly, the makers of Olanzapine (Zyprexa) - so, as with any information published by a company, you have to be skeptical of the results and potential bias that tends to be common in these types of trials.

The research was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Increasingly, research is showing that the atypical antipsychotic medications seem to share this ability to slow the grey matter loss that is characteristic of schizophrenia.

The study took two years and had a total of 263 schizophrenia patients who had been recently diagnosed. There were 58 participants who did not have schizophrenia and acted as controls for the study. Half of the patients with schizophrenia were administered olanzapine and the other half were given haloperidol. "On average, the patients taking haloperidol lost about 2 percent (12 cubic centimeters) of gray matter. There was no gray matter loss detected in patients who took olanzapine or in the healthy volunteers. The patients who lost gray matter, particularly from the brain's frontal lobe, exhibited greater cognitive problems when tested in verbal fluency, verbal learning and memory" (Preidt, 2005).

If the findings are confirmed by other studies than this would imply that the newer atypical antipsychotics are preferable. This would supposedly keep the illness from progressing if medication was started earlier. Previous research looking at brain matter loss in adolescents with schizophrenia has indicated that early intervention could prevent the damage.

The brain's gray matter holds most of a human beings brain cells, as well as the "billions of connections among the cells." Losing gray matter has been associated with social withdrawal as well as other perceived negative symptoms of schizophrenia. This story also reminds readers that the fact that schizophrenia can cause brain deterioration has only been known by scientists for the last 10 years.

The source of this article is The Detroit News. Written there by Robert Preidt.

You can find the full article at

The research article is by Lieberman JA. "Recent advances in the clinical use of atypical antipsychotics". CNS Spectr. 2005 Aug;10(8 Suppl 8):4.


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