November 21, 2007

Reducing Nitric Oxide in the Brain Improves Memory & Social Function in Patients With Schizophrenia?

Read more... Schizophrenia Biology

A new story out of Sweden discusses the results of a dissertation completed at Sahlgrenska Academy. The dissertation examined the effects reduced amounts of nitric oxide have on the symptoms of schizophrenia. Specifically, it examined the idea that problems with memory and social function in patients with schizophrenia may result from an imbalance in the brain's nitric oxide system. Research performed for the dissertation found that rats with characteristics of schizophrenia regain normal brain function if they receive drugs that reduce the production of nitric oxide in the brain.

If further research corroborates this finding, new treatments which specifically target memory and social function problems in patients with schizophrenia may arise. Because current medication treatments for schizophrenia don't do much to ameliorate memory and social function problems, new treatments which address these issues are needed:

"Schizophrenic patients can be treated with anti-psychotic drugs, but the treatment does not help cognitive disturbances or impaired social function to any appreciable degree. We believe that this is due to an imbalance in the brain's nitric oxide system, and if this is the case, we may be able to develop a completely new type of treatment," Carolin Wass, a pharmacologist, stated in the story.

In the studies performed for the dissertation, rate and mice were given a drug called phencyclidine. This substance causes a schizophrenia-like state in humans. "Rats and mice don't become schizophrenic, but the drug has a similar effect on thought processes in rodents to the effect it has in humans," stated Caroline Wass.

For the studies, the animals' learning capacity, memory and social interaction were measured using several different behavior models. When the animals were treated with a substance that blocks brain nitric oxide production, they became resistant to the schizophrenia-like effects of phencyclidine.

The research team that performed the studies now plans to initiate a patient study in order to find out whether blocking brain nitric oxide production can alleviate cognitive disturbances in patients with schizophrenia.

"In the future it is possible that drugs that affect the regulation of nitric oxide in the brain can be used to supplement currently existing anti-psychotic agents. The hope is that nitric oxide inhibiting drugs will alleviate the cognitive disturbances that also lie behind the impairments of social function, significantly improving the chances of a good life for schizophrenic patients," Caroline Wass further stated.

More Information on Nitric Oxide in the Brain

Full Story: New discoveries about nitric oxide can provide drugs for schizophrenia (idw)


I could have told you this 10 years ago as I have repeatedly told my psychiatrists that my illness was triggered by taking the sports supplement l-arginine which is known to raise nitric oxide levels. An internet or vitamin book search will allways bring up the information that l-arginine should be avoided by people suffering from schizophrenia but doctors and researchers have not cottoned on to this yet.

Posted by: Josh at November 21, 2007 02:47 PM

It appears that while l-arginine stimulates brain NO production with schizophrenic effects in susceptible people, the "l-arginine amino opposite" l-lysine appears to ameliorate its effects. Interestingly l-arginine also stimulates viruses such as HSV from their dormant state an event also linked to schizophrenia, this virus replication is also blocked by l-lysine. This begs the question whether l-lysine is an effective antipsychotic with at least 2 modes of action and also tenuously whether viruses effect NO production.

Posted by: Josh at November 22, 2007 01:29 PM

Quite interesting..

Posted by: CopperKettle at November 22, 2007 07:46 PM

I also took l - arginine and became psychotic and schizophrenic, the dosage was not high when I took it, bet when an episode of major stress happenend in my life I took this supplement to amelorate it but I became psychotic. Unfortunatelly I was also predisposed to this ilness becouse I have positive family history.
Food supplements are no good!!!!

Posted by: Maija at November 26, 2007 05:51 AM

Food supplement are no good ?
I don't think so, but it need to be use cautiously...
I do agree with Josh, HSV possible in implication in schizophrenias should be more studied.
Have you ever tried antiviral medication (like valtrex) or suppelements, like olive leaf ?
i have and have.
I can't say if this effect is related to virus or NO or anything else, however several things like vitamin C, A, and various supplements told to be viral support have been useful in reducing my delirious items.

Posted by: Guillaume at November 30, 2007 08:09 AM

Well, this nitric oxide theory sounds iffy at the moment, seeing how it is just being evaluated so far in rats that were given PCP, but if it really is a culprit, I wonder if pycnogenol (the special pine bark extract) could help. Some doctors say it does help with attention (ADD or ADHD) problems. From what I've read pycnogenol can neutralize nitric oxide radicals. I've also read that it can reduce nitric oxide synthesis, although I guess it does the opposite in blood vessels and makes nitric oxide there, though its effect there is to dilate the blood vessels which is usually a good thing as it increases blood flow.

Its a bit complex and confusing really, all the effects pycnogenol has on nitric oxide in the body, but I wonder if it could help.

Posted by: Fred at December 1, 2007 12:39 PM

I'm starting to believe this more. Rats on PCP didn't convince me as much as this study: "Increased Nitric Oxide Radicals in Postmortem Brain From Patients With Schizophrenia"

Full paper in PDF format:

Josh and Maija's comments about arginine above seem pretty believable in light of this.

Posted by: Fred at December 12, 2007 08:50 PM

I am a bit confused on how to interpret the schizophrenia bulletin article. On p930 it says: "...whereas inhibition of arginase by L-hydrox-
yarginine (metabolite of NO pathway) may increase NO
production (Daghigh et al. 1994)", implying arginase is necessary to reduce NO? and should be good for schizophrenics?

Posted by: steve at April 26, 2008 02:43 PM

Sorry about the last comment. Arginase is the enzyme which breaks down arginine so, as with the previous contributors arginine doesn't sound good.

There was one modest report in Am J Psychiatry 143:375-377, 1986 in which it seemed negative symptoms were greatly improved and residual symptoms showed a trend.

Posted by: steve at April 28, 2008 06:06 PM

Post a comment

Please enter this code to enable your comment -
Remember Me?
(you may use HTML tags for style)
* indicates required