Log in   •   Sign up   •   Subscribe  feed icon

Neuroimaging Can Spot Schizophrenia Before It Manifests

Image Credit: Schizophrenia.comImage Credit: Schizophrenia.comPsychology researchers at the Tel Aviv University in Israel, frustrated with what they consider to be unsatisfactory results of medications for schizophrenia, set out to find biological markers for the disease that could be seen through neuroimaging prior to the onset of the disease. 

"Pharmacological treatments for schizophrenia remain unsatisfactory, so clinicians and researchers like myself have started to dig in another direction," says Professor Ina Weiner, lead researcher. "The big question asked in recent years is if schizophrenia can be prevented."

People assume that schizophrenia is inherited, as it is associated with many genes in the human genome.  But actually, the presence of familial schizophrenia is not enough to determine that it will occur in offspring because there are environmental links to schizophrenia as well.  One of those links can be the presence of an infection in the womb during pregnancy.

Because schizophrenia does not manifest itself until after puberty or later in adulthood, the disease is not treated until it appears. Professor Ina Weiner and Doctors Yael Piontkewiz and Yaniv Assaf undertook a study of rats in which the experimental group was given a viral mimic known to cause schizophrenia.  The researchers then followed changes in rats' brains via neuroimaging during their development and could see the progression of the disease in the brain scans.

 

Adult "schizophrenic" rats (middle) have larger lateral ventricles than those of normal rats (left), but become smaller after preventive treatment with clozapine in adolescence (right). (Credit: Image courtesy of Tel Aviv University via Science Daily)Adult "schizophrenic" rats (middle) have larger lateral ventricles than those of normal rats (left), but become smaller after preventive treatment with clozapine in adolescence (right). (Credit: Image courtesy of Tel Aviv University via Science Daily)

 

 

The researchers discovered that the schizophrenia-induced rats developed abnormal lateral ventricles and hippocampus.  After treatment with commonly prescribed medications, risperidone and clozapine, the lateral ventricles and the hippocampus returned to normal size.  The best time to treat the rats with these drugs, Professor Wiener noted, was during their adolescent periods, several months prior to them reaching full maturity.

The results encouraged the researchers to extrapolate that perhaps tracking high risk pubescent teens through neuroimaging and treating them before the onset of schizophrenia could delay or even eliminate their chances for developing the mind-altering disease.

 

via Science Daily