April 28, 2007

The Use of Neuroimaging in the Study of Schizophrenia

Dr. Nancy C. Andreasen, a pioneer in the use of brain-imaging technology for the study of schizophrenia, was interviewed by Jessica Gould for Medscape about the use of neuroimaging technology, including structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional MRI (fMRI), and positron emission tomography (PET), to deepen our understanding of this brain disorder.

Dr. Andreasen explains some of the history of using imaging technology in the study of schizophrenia, explains differences between these technologies, and discusses some of the interesting findings allowed by the use of these technologies.

Dr. Andreasen explains that PET creates images based on the detection of radiation from the emission of positrons. It quantitatively measures cerebral blood flow. By using PET, we have learned that more brain regions tend to be hypofunctional (less active) in people with schizophrenia than was previously thought. These regions include the prefrontal cortex, the temporal lobe, the thalamus, and the cerebellum.

It seems that schizophrenia is a disorder in which the distributed circuits of the brain are misconnected and not functioning together in an organized way. This results in being able to receive information, but then the information is either sent to the wrong place, not sent quickly enough, or the target location, once it gets the information, is not using it efficiently.

In discussing what lies ahead in the area of psychiatric research, Dr. Andreasen says that the future in psychiatry needs to integrate information from many sources including genetics, genomics (application of genetics to understanding how genes function together and exert their effects), proteomics (production of proteins), and eidomics (use of imaging technology to develop brain biomarkers that may inform diagnosis or treatment or the identification of neural mechanisms), and more.

She hopes that psychiatric research will lead to the ability to develop individualized, tailored treatments for patients with schizophrenia.

Read the full article: Schizophrenia and Neuroimaging: An Expert Interview with Dr. Nancy C. Andreasen (free registration may be required)

Related Reading:
In Schizophrenia, Brain's Default Mode Seems to be Out of Sync
A New Direction for Schizophrenia Treatments?
Scans Reveal Schizophrenia Risk
Understanding Where the Brain Goes Wrong in Schizophrenia
Using Biological Markers in the Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Schizophrenia
Brain Scans May be Able to Predict Schizophrenia



We fully agree with Dr. Andreasen that future research needs to integrate information from several sources and we also hope that future psychiatric research will lead to the ability to develop individualized, tailored treatments for patients with schizophrenia.

Neuroimaging research on schizophrenia so far has demonstrated widespread deficits affecting a range of cognitive functions distributed throughout the brain; and the frontal- and temporal lobes are thought to be critically involved in schizophrenia. This dysfunction is thought to be irreversible, it often worsens over time; even when optimal treatment is given (1).

With respect to the neuroimaging results, however, it is important to note that there is a degree of inconsistency in reported findings. Moreover, a pattern of brain dysfunction that would serve as a biological trait marker or predict treatment response has not emerged to date (2).

Finally, although the development of neuroimaging techniques have provided the technological advance necessary to examine schizophrenia; the scientific challenge will be to incorporate these techniques appropriately through prudent experimental design (3).

Maurits van den Noort & Peggy Bosch


1) Lund, A., Thomsen, T., Kroken, R., Smievoll, A.I., Landrø, N.I., Barndon, R., Ersland, L., Iversen, J., Sundet, K., Lundervold, A., Asbjørnsen, A., Rund, B.R., & Hugdahl, K. (2002). "Normalization" of brain activation in schizophrenia: An fMRI study. Schizophrenia Research, 58(2-3), 333-335.

2) Van den Noort, M.W.M.L., & Bosch, M.P.C. (2008). Schizophrenia: What do we know from neuroimaging research? In M.P.C. Bosch & M.W.M.L. Van den Noort (Eds.), Schizophrenia, Sleep, and Acupuncture. Göttingen, Germany: Hogrefe & Huber.

3) Honey, G.D., & Bullmore, E.T. (2002). Functional neuroimaging and schizophrenia. Psychiatry, 1(1), 26-29.

Posted by: Maurits van den Noort at November 11, 2007 01:46 PM

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