A new study suggests using brain scans over a course of time can help detect early changes in the brain suggestive of schizophrenia. Knowledge of a predilection toward the disorder could be used to assess possibilities for preventing schizophrenia.
Investigators found a decline of gray matter density in a particular area of the brain was predictive of developing schizophrenia 2.3 years after the scan. Gray matter is a major component of the central nervous system consisting of nerve cells and blood vessels. Gray matter routes sensory or motor stimulus within the nervous system.
The study is published in the open access journal BMC Medicine.
Dominic Job and colleagues from the University of Edinburgh in the UK analyzed the brain scans of 65 individuals known to be at risk for schizophrenia because members of their family had suffered from it.
The scans were generated using structural magnetic resonance imaging techniques (sMRI). Job et al. analyzed changes in grey matter density in the scans, over a period of 18 months. Eight of the individuals studied went on to develop schizophrenia, on average 2.3 years after the brain scans were collected.
Job et al.’s results show that a reduction in gray matter density over time could be used as an indicator that an individual who is at risk will develop schizophrenia.
Sixty percent of the individuals who according to Job et al.’s results were likely to develop schizophrenia, because they showed a reduction in grey matter in one part of their brain called the temporal gyrus, did develop the condition.
Over 90 percent of the individuals who according to Job et al.’s predictions would not develop schizophrenia, did not develop it. Job et al.’s predictions could be used to assess possibilities for preventing schizophrenia.