Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Promising New Research On Schizophrenia Causes

Date:
February 28, 2000
Source:
University Of Illinois At Chicago
Summary:
Research by a prominent neuroscientist at UIC is providing new clues to the molecular origins of schizophrenia, a devastating mental illness that afflicts nearly 2.5 million Americans. Erminio Costa, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and scientific director of UIC's Psychiatric Institute, is studying a chemical found in the brain called reelin. Reelin plays a role in correctly positioning and aligning neurons in the developing brain.

Research by a prominent neuroscientist at UIC is providing new clues to the molecular origins of schizophrenia, a devastating mental illness that afflicts nearly 2.5 million Americans.

Erminio Costa, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and scientific director of UIC's Psychiatric Institute, is studying a chemical found in the brain called reelin. Reelin plays a role in correctly positioning and aligning neurons in the developing brain. It is also present in certain areas of the adult brain, including the cerebral cortex, the region responsible for higher mental functions like language and problem solving.

In a postmortem study of the brains of schizophrenics, obtained from brain banks, Costa and his colleagues found that the level of reelin was half that in normal human brains.

To confirm that finding, the UIC scientists conducted a blind study of 60 brains taken postmortem from individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, unipolar depression or bipolar disorder with psychosis, and individuals with no psychiatric abnormalities. They correctly identified those that came from psychotic patients by testing for levels of reelin. Controls in the experiment ruled out the possibility that the decrease in reelin was due to drugs the individuals had taken to treat their psychoses or to other possible effects.

Costa is now investigating the mechanism by which reelin acts, in collaboration with UIC neuroscientists Hector Caruncho, Dennis Grayson, Alessandro Guidotti, George Pappas, Christine Pesold, Neil Smalheiser and Doncho Uzunov. In a paper to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Costa and his colleagues report finding reelin associated with the dendritic spines of neurons in the cortex. These dendritic spines - branching fingerlike extensions of the neurons that receive inputs from a complex of other neurons - are thought to be involved in learning. The UIC scientists suggest that reelin may act by interfering with biochemical mechanisms important for memory and learning. In the schizophrenic brain, the density of dendritic spines in the cortex is far lower than in the normal brain. Costa speculates that the decreased levels of reelin may be indirectly related to this phenomenon.

Costa has also advanced a "two hit" model of schizophrenia. First, a defect in the gene for reelin causes the misplacement of cortical neurons. This misplacement alone is not sufficient to precipitate mental illness, according to Costa. Rather, it creates a "genetic vulnerability," or a predisposition for psychosis. This first hit is then followed by a second hit later in puberty or in early adulthood when the final pruning of neuronal connections occurs. While this pruning is a normal part of brain maturation, Costa speculates that in schizophrenics it somehow unveils the defects laid down during fetal development. Schizophrenia typically becomes evident when individuals are in their late teens or early twenties.

"If future scientific studies confirm that a defect in the expression of the reelin gene causes a predisposition for psychosis, there are important implications for treatment," Costa said. "We may one day be able to alter the gene's mechanisms that regulate the production of reelin. Moreover, early identification of the genetic defect through laboratory analysis, which is currently under study at UIC by Dr. Smalheiser, might help us take remedial steps before psychotic symptoms arise."

The Psychiatric Institute is part of UIC's College of Medicine, which is the nation's largest medical school. One out of six Illinois doctors is a graduate of the college, as are 70 percent of the minority physicians practicing in Chicago. The college produces more medical school faculty than all but five schools in the country.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

With 25,000 students, the University of Illinois at Chicago is the largest and most diverse university in the Chicago area and is one of only 88 national Research I universities. Located just west of Chicago's Loop, UIC is a vital part of the educational, technological, and cultural fabric of the entire metropolitan region.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Illinois At Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Illinois At Chicago. "Promising New Research On Schizophrenia Causes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/02/000228080806.htm>.
University Of Illinois At Chicago. (2000, February 28). Promising New Research On Schizophrenia Causes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/02/000228080806.htm
University Of Illinois At Chicago. "Promising New Research On Schizophrenia Causes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/02/000228080806.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) New research shows that women who suffer from PTSD are three times more likely to develop a food addiction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins