Brain Abnormalities in Patients With Schizophrenia Found

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People with schizophrenia have parts of the brain that are of abnormal size, a development that scientists say may help in the development of new treatments of the disorder or how a patient will respond to a therapy.

The research was conducted by the Schizophrenia Working Group, which is part of the Enhancing Neuroimaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis project (ENIGMA).

Jessica Turner, PhD, co-chair of the group and an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Georgia State University, Atlanta, and colleagues examined MRI scans of brains from 2,028 schizophrenia patients and 2,540 healthy patients. The participants were from both the United States and Europe.

The patients with schizophrenia tended to have smaller volume in brain regions that included the hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, nucleus accumbens and intracranial space than their healthy peers, the researchers reported in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. In addition, those with schizophrenia also had larger pallidum and ventricle volumes.

“This is the largest structural brain meta-analysis to date in schizophrenia, and specifically, it is not a meta-analysis pulled only from the literature,” Turner said in a statement. “Everyone performed the same analyses using the same statistical models, and we combined the results. We then identified brain regions that differentiated patients from controls and ranked them according to their effect sizes.”

The ENIGMA project also includes other research groups looking at other mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, autism and addiction. These groups are conducting the same analyses of the brain.

The next step for researchers is to determine which brain area is most impacted by each mental disorder, as well as find out the impact of age, medications, environment and symptoms across these illnesses.

Brain Abnormalities in Patients With Schizophrenia Found
Identification of the brain abnormalities could potentially help in the development of new treatments for schizophrenia.

Structural brain abnormalities in patients with schizophrenia, providing insight into how the condition may develop and respond to treatment, have been identified in an internationally collaborative study led by a Georgia State University scientist.

Scientists at more than a dozen locations across the United States and Europe analyzed brain MRI scans from 2,028 schizophrenia patients and 2,540 healthy controls, assessed with standardized methods at 15 centers worldwide. The findings, published in Molecular Psychiatry, help further the understanding of the mental disorder.

The work was the outcome of the Enhancing Neuroimaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis project (ENIGMA), from the Schizophrenia Working Group that is co-chaired by Jessica Turner, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Georgia State, and Theo van Erp, assistant research professor in psychiatry at the University of California, Irvine.

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