July 25, 2006

GABA Cells in Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder

Read more... Schizophrenia Biology

Schizophrenia community member DeeJayDee let us know about this good interview on the NARSAD web site. Its written for a medical professionals - but if you want to learn more about an area thats becoming increasingly important as an area of research and (it is hoped) treatment - read on. Interestingly, Dr. Benes identifies stem cell research as a key area for the future for better understanding of schizophrenia, and potential treatments:

GABA Cells in Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder
An Expert Interview With Dr. Francine M. Benes, M.D., Ph.D.

Medscape: I've read that the 'Aha!' moment that defined the direction of your career came during a lecture by Dr. Janice Stevens?

Dr. Francine M. Benes: At the time, I had just finished my Ph.D. and I was a postdoctoral fellow in molecular neurochemistry at the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, California. I was attending the winter Brain Research Conference, which is held every year at a ski resort in Colorado. One evening, Janice Stevens, a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy, was giving a lecture on a paper she had just published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. It was entitled "An Anatomy of Schizophrenia?" In this article, Dr. Stevens discussed the similarities between schizophrenia and temporal lobe epilepsy and pointed out the significant overlap in symptoms. She suggested that schizophrenia might involve an abnormality in the temporal lobe, one that involves the dopamine system. At the time, it had been found that antipsychotic medications block dopamine receptors. Dr. Stevens is a pioneer, because she was the first investigator to suggest that a specific projection (the dopamine system) to an important region of the brain (the temporal lobe) might play a key role in distinctly human disease.

When I first heard her discuss her paper, I felt as if someone had hit me over the head. The idea that one might be able to understand schizophrenia, a uniquely human brain disorder that distinctively affects the way we think and perceive the world, in terms of a specific neural circuit or connection pattern was simply amazing.

At that time, psychiatric disorders had little or no place in the field of neuroscience. But a nascent interest was beginning to grow out of the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia. For a young scientist like myself, who had already worked as a neuroscientist on simple neural circuits in chickens and frogs, this had a powerful influence on my future path. By 1973, it was already clear that the study of more complex systems would help us to understand how the human brain enables us to think and feel.

I couldn't get the problem of schizophrenia out of my mind. The next day, I was going up the ski lift with a pathologist from Europe and told him how excited I was about Jan Stevens' talk. He smiled warmly and said, "There's nothing to that! People looked at the schizophrenia brain in the early part of the twentieth century and found nothing!" I thought, "How can there possibly be nothing there when so many people with schizophrenia are so sick?"


Medscape: What do you think is up and coming in your field?

Dr. Benes: I think what is really coming down the line in an important way is stem cell research. It's going to reveal how neurons in the brain become differentiated, how they attain their functional competence during pre- and postnatal development, and how certain populations of neurons may become dysfunctional during late adolescence and early adulthood when schizophrenia typically begins. Stem cell research will lead us to new forms of therapy that can be applied early in the course of the illness and prevent its progression. We can only dream about such therapies right now, but they will become a reality in the future.

This interview is published in collaboration with NARSAD: The Mental Health Research Association, and is supported by an educational grant from Pfizer.

Francine M. Benes, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; Director, Program in Structural and Molecular Neuroscience, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts.

Read the full interview: Interview With Dr. Francine M. Benes, M.D., Ph.D.


people who looked at the brain in the early 1900's and didnt' find anything, must not have been looking very hard. charcot in 1735 found differences - without any fancy equipment.

Posted by: slc2 at July 27, 2006 10:04 AM

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