Schizophrenia and the Brain

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder affecting over 20 million people in the world.  There is still a lot we don’t know about why and how this chronic condition develops. However, ongoing clinical research efforts show growing evidence of chemical and structural differences in the brains of individuals with schizophrenia. These new developments may eventually help diagnose the condition earlier and improve treatment options.

Schizophrenia Overview

Schizophrenia affects the way you think and how you cope with day-to-day life. Everyone’s experience is different with schizophrenia. Below are the most common symptoms:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Lack of motivation
  • Slow movement
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Poor grooming or hygiene
  • Changes in body language and emotions
  • Less interest in social activities

Brain Changes from Schizophrenia

The brain

The brains of people with schizophrenia tend to be different from those without it. Research evidence suggests specific abnormalities in patients, including:

  • There are reported lower volumes of gray matter in the brain’s temporal and frontal lobes. This can cause loss of function in some areas.
    • Scientists believe this happens in the early stages of schizophrenia and may help with early diagnosis.
  • Research suggests changes in the hippocampus (a structure in the temporal lobe that influences learning and memory), including:
    • Atrophy (loss of brain cells/shrinkage) of the hippocampus is one of the most notable changes in the brains of people with schizophrenia.
  • Changes and imbalances in neurotransmitters. These include:
    • Dopamine plays a role in brain functions such as motor control, reward and reinforcement, and motivation.
      • The brains of people with schizophrenia appear to be sensitive to dopamine differently than the brains of people without schizophrenia.
    • Glutamate influences memory and learning.
      • Individuals with schizophrenia can exhibit abnormalities in glutamate
    • Serotonin is vital to regulating mood, sleep, anxiety, sexuality, and appetite.
      • It is believed this also may play a role in schizophrenia.
    • Evidence of altered brain waves may be caused by a decrease in excitability and inhibition (stop and go of the brain).
      • This may mean that the brain tries to compensate for the loss of excitability by reducing inhibition. This may lead to hallucinations and other symptoms.

Insight to Improving Options for Schizophrenia

Though work continues on the early evidence of these findings, hope grows for individuals living with schizophrenia. These insights may help patients get an earlier diagnosis, improve treatment options and their response to them.

Living with schizophrenia can feel overwhelming

As potential new therapies are developed, their safety and effectiveness in the human body are evaluated in research studies. Volunteers who participate in research studies are vital to this process. Finger Lakes Clinical Research is looking for individuals to join current and future schizophrenia studies looking into potential new options. For more information, call us at (585) 241-9670!

Sources:

https://www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/about-mental-illness/learn-more-about-conditions/schizophrenia/

https://www.verywellhealth.com/schizophrenia-brain-5193049

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/schizophrenia-synaptic-dysfunction-plays-key-role#How-synaptic-dysfunction-links-to-symptoms