Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How Schizophrenia affects the brain

Date:
September 11, 2013
Source:
University of Iowa
Summary:
A study has been published using brain scans to document the effects of schizophrenia on brain tissue. The findings may help doctors better understand the origin of the illness and the best ways to treat it.

It's hard to fully understand a mental disease like schizophrenia without peering into the human brain. Now, a study by University of Iowa psychiatry professor Nancy Andreasen uses brain scans to document how schizophrenia impacts brain tissue as well as the effects of anti-psychotic drugs on those who have relapses.

Related Articles


Andreasen's study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, documented brain changes seen in MRI scans from more than 200 patients beginning with their first episode and continuing with scans at regular intervals for up to 15 years. The study is considered the largest longitudinal, brain-scan data set ever compiled, Andreasen says. Schizophrenia affects roughly 3.5 million people, or about one percent of the U.S. population, according to the National Institutes of Health. Globally, some 24 million are affected, according to the World Health Organization.

The scans showed that people at their first episode had less brain tissue than healthy individuals. The findings suggest that those who have schizophrenia are being affected by something before they show outward signs of the disease.

"There are several studies, mine included, that show people with schizophrenia have smaller-than-average cranial size," explains Andreasen, whose appointment is in the Carver College of Medicine. "Since cranial development is completed within the first few years of life, there may be some aspect of earliest development -- perhaps things such as pregnancy complications or exposure to viruses -- that on average, affected people with schizophrenia."

Andreasen's team learned from the brain scans that those affected with schizophrenia suffered the most brain tissue loss in the two years after the first episode, but then the damage curiously plateaued -- to the group's surprise. The finding may help doctors identify the most effective time periods to prevent tissue loss and other negative effects of the illness, Andreasen says.

The researchers also analyzed the effect of medication on the brain tissue. Although results were not the same for every patient, the group found that in general, the higher the anti-psychotic medication doses, the greater the loss of brain tissue. "This was a very upsetting finding," Andreasen says. "We spent a couple of years analyzing the data more or less hoping we had made a mistake. But in the end, it was a solid finding that wasn't going to go away, so we decided to go ahead and publish it. The impact is painful because psychiatrists, patients, and family members don't know how to interpret this finding. 'Should we stop using antipsychotic medication? Should we be using less?'"

The group also examined how relapses could affect brain tissue, including whether long periods of psychosis could be toxic to the brain. The results suggest that longer relapses were associated with brain tissue loss.

The insight could change how physicians use anti-psychotic drugs to treat schizophrenia, with the view that those with the disorder can lead productive lives with the right balance of care.

"We used to have hundreds of thousands of people chronically hospitalized. Now, most are living in the community, and this is thanks to the medications we have," Andreasen notes. "But antipsychotic treatment has a negative impact on the brain, so … we must get the word out that they should be used with great care, because even though they have fewer side effects than some of the other medications we use, they are certainly not trouble free and can have lifelong consequences for the health and happiness of the people and families we serve."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Iowa. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nancy C. Andreasen. Relapse Duration, Treatment Intensity, and Brain Tissue Loss in Schizophrenia: A Prospective Longitudinal MRI Study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2013; 170 (6): 609 DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.12050674

Cite This Page:

University of Iowa. "How Schizophrenia affects the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130911103325.htm>.
University of Iowa. (2013, September 11). How Schizophrenia affects the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130911103325.htm
University of Iowa. "How Schizophrenia affects the brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130911103325.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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