Schizophrenia research links form and function

January 02, 2000

Washington, DC -- Secrets of schizophrenia are yielding to new research models that attempt to link the illness to interrelated abnormalities in both brain structure and neurotransmitter functioning, according to research published in the January American Journal of Psychiatry.

“Understanding the pathophysiology of a given disorder will ultimately require an appreciation of how abnormalities in one brain region produce and/or result from disturbances in other brain areas,” writes David A. Lewis, M.D. of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, in an accompanying editorial.
He cited three relevant studies also published in the January AJP:

KaiVogeley, M.D. and associates of the Friedrich Wilhelms University of Bonn, compared the prefrontal regions in brains from 24 schizophrenia patients and 24 controls after death. They found that a measurement of cortical folding in the right prefrontal cortex was 7 percent higher in male subjects with schizophrenia, pointing to a neurodevelopmental cause. (“Disturbed Gyrification of the Prefrontal Region in Male Schizophrenic Patients: A Morphometric Postmortem Study”)

Brendan McDonald and associates from the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, U.K. and other U.K. centers, compared reported abnormalities in volume and symmetry of the temporal lobes of post-mortem patients with schizophrenia and comparison subjects. They found significant changes, especially in the portion of the temporal lobe having to do with name and face recognition. Among men, difference in symmetry were related to age of onset. (“Anomalous Asymmetry of Fusiform and Parahippocampal Gyrus Gray Matter in Schizophrenia: A Postmortem Study”)

Alessandro Bertolino, M.D. and associates at the National Institute of Mental Health used PET scans to study how networks of neurons functioned in patients with schizophrenia as they performed tasks requiring use of their working memory. They found that tasks involving working memory abnormally activated neurons in a specific area of the prefrontal cortex. (“Specific Relationship Between Prefrontal Neuronal N-Acetylaspartate and Activation of the Working Memory Cortical Network in Schizophrenia”)

Dr. Lewis says researchers now must determine whether a given brain abnormality is the cause of a disturbance elsewhere in the brain, is the result of another abnormality, or is an attempt by the brain to restore normal brain function.
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Copies of these articles are available in their entirety by calling 202-682-6119.

American Psychiatric Association

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