Researchers report use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) pinpoints both structural and functional abnormalities in schizophrenic patients who experience chronic auditory hallucinations.
Researchers believe the discovery of the specific brain regions involved with the disorder will ultimately enable more effective treatment.
“The results showed abnormalities in specific areas of the brain associated with the capacity to process human voices,” said lead author, Luis Martí-Bonmatí, M.D., Ph.D., for Dr. Peset University Hospital in Valencia, Spain.
The study is published in the August issue of Radiology.
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder that affects approximately 1 percent of the global population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
People with schizophrenia often experience hallucinations, delusional thoughts, paranoia, disorganized thinking and other cognitive difficulties.
Although the cause of schizophrenia has not been determined, it is believed to result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. The condition is treatable, but there is no cure.
“Developing a clear understanding of the pathological abnormalities associated with schizophrenia is one of the greatest challenges in psychiatry,” Dr. Martí-Bonmatí said.
The researchers studied 31 right-handed men, 21 with schizophrenia who suffered from persistent auditory hallucinations and 10 healthy controls. Morphological MR images were acquired to show abnormalities in brain structure while functional MRI was used to gauge brain response to various emotional and neutral stimuli.
Among the schizophrenic patients, the results showed functional abnormalities and corresponding gray matter deficits in several brain regions associated with regulating emotion and processing human voices.
“We hope that by evaluating combined structural and functional abnormalities in the brains of these patients, we may uncover biological markers to find candidates for specific treatments and better monitor patient response to those treatments,” Dr. Martí-Bonmatí said.