Antibodies to Brain Proteins May Trigger Psychosis

The hallucinations and delusions in a subset of children with psychosis may be linked to overactive antibodies, according to a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. The findings add to a growing body of research that supports an “immune hypothesis” for certain types of psychosis.

In a healthy person, antibodies protect the body against bacteria, viruses, and other invaders. But when the antibodies begin to attack  healthy cells, an automimmune disorder can develop.

In the new study, researchers detected antibodies to the dopamine D2 receptor or the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptor in a subgroup of children experiencing their first episode of psychosis. Both are key neural signaling proteins that have previously been implicated in psychosis. These antibodies were not found in healthy children.

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