A new study suggests abnormalities in the white matter of the brain appear to influence the development of schizophrenia.
The study, led by Professor Phillip McGuire and Dr. Sophia Frangou at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King’s College London, discovered young adolescents with severe deficits of white matter in the posterior region of the brain–specifically the parietal region–develop schizophrenia.
The researchers also found that as people grow older, their deficits “migrate” in a back to front manner and in adulthood, they impact the frontal lobes of the brain quite dramatically.
The research is published in this month’s edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Schizophrenia is a disabling and emotionally devastating illness that affects about one percent of the population worldwide.
Professor McGuire, from the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and IoP comments: “Although we can trace the origins of schizophrenia to early brain development we still do not know what triggers the onset of the full blown symptoms. Our study suggests that at least part of the answer lies in problems affecting the ‘wiring’ of key brain areas.”
The team used Diffusion Tensor Imaging, a state-of-the-art neuroimaging technique, to examine white matter connections in adolescents and adults with schizophrenia.
Abnormalities in white matter appeared first in posterior parts of the brain in the younger patients and became more prominent in the frontal lobes in adult patients. In interpreting the results, Dr. Kyriakopoulos, the lead author, explained that the scans capture the interaction between brain development and disease mechanisms.
Dr. Frangou said the study “takes a life-long view on schizophrenia and thereby bridges traditional barriers between child and adult patients.”
The study adds new insight to mounting evidence that abnormalities in white matter play a critical role in what turns schizophrenia on and may provide clues to new treatments.
Source: King’s College London