August 30, 2005

Brain Research for Schizophrenia

Dr. Frances Benes has about 6,000 brains of which she and many others have used to identify the genes that cause several physical and mental diseases. She is in charge of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center in which the brains of those who were generous enough to leave them to science once they had passed away.

"In her investigations, Benes has found compelling evidence that miswiring of neural circuitry may give rise to both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Her work has contributed to the current understanding that like Alzheimer's disease, neither schizophrenia nor bipolar disorder is linked to degenerative changes in the brain" ( Benes and her staff provide brain tissue samples to researchers looking at different brain disorders.

Benes first got interested in schizophrenia when attending a brain research conference in Colorado, back in the 70s. One of the researchers proposed the concept that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder might have common aspects that could be seen in certain locations of the brain. Benes was fascinated by the idea and later mentioned the idea to a neuropathologist friend of hers who discredited the idea by stating "Oh no, there's nothing there in the brains of patients with schizophrenia. This was looked at by many people in the earlier part of the century, and they found nothing."

The idea of such at the time was a new idea, so many did not believe that it was valid. Benes believed that there had to be some difference and therefore devoted her career to studying schizophrenia. Thanks to her efforts, and those of many others, we now know that there is a distinct difference in the brains of those with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Dr. Frances Benes is one to be admired for all of the contributions she has made to the research movement on schizophrenia.

Original Source: Doctor controls Harvard's brain trust. August 30, 2005. By Neil Osterweil.


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