Schizophrenia linked to signaling problems in new brain study

Mar 03, 2009
Schizophrenia linked to signaling problems in new brain study
Schizophrenia could be caused by faulty signalling in the brain.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Schizophrenia could be caused by faulty signalling in the brain, according to new research published today in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. In the biggest study of its kind, scientists looking in detail at brain samples donated by people with the condition have identified 49 genes that work differently in the brains of schizophrenia patients compared to controls.

Many of these genes are involved in controlling cell-to-cell signalling in the brain. The study, which was carried out by researchers at Imperial College London and GlaxoSmithKline, supports the theory that abnormalities in the way in which cells 'talk' to each other are involved in the disease.

Schizophrenia is thought to affect around one in 100 people. Symptoms vary but can include hallucinations, lack of motivation and impaired social functioning. The disorder has little physical effect on the brain and its causes are largely unknown.

Some scientists believe that schizophrenia could be caused by the brain producing too much dopamine, partly because drugs that block dopamine action provide an effective treatment for the condition. Another theory is that the coat surrounding nerve cells, which is made of myelin, is damaged in people with schizophrenia. However, the new study found that the genes for dopamine and for myelin were not acting any differently in schizophrenia patients compared with controls.

Professor Jackie de Belleroche, the corresponding author of the paper from Imperial College London said: "The first step towards better treatments for schizophrenia is to really understand what is going on, to find out what genes are involved and what they are doing. Our new study has narrowed the search for potential targets for treatment."

As well as pointing towards signalling as the cause of schizophrenia, the new findings could also lead to new ways of diagnosing the condition. At the moment, patients are diagnosed on the basis of their behaviour.

"Most patients are diagnosed as teenagers or in their early 20s, but if they could be diagnosed earlier, they could be treated more effectively and they could have a better quality of life. To have the possibility of transforming someone's life early on instead of having to take drugs indefinitely would be wonderful," added Professor de Belleroche.

The researchers reached their conclusions after analysing brain tissue from 23 controls and 28 schizophrenia patients, selected from brains donated by UK patients being treated for schizophrenia and comparing the data to an equivalent study in the USA. The changes described in this study were common to both studies. This is the biggest cohort of schizophrenia patients used for this type of study to date.

This is part of a larger study looking at proteins and DNA as well as mRNA in the samples, which were taken from two brain regions associated with schizophrenia: the frontal cortical area and the temporal cortex. mRNA are copies of small sections of our DNA that cells use to build proteins. Unlike DNA, mRNA varies in different parts of the body, where different proteins are needed.

More information: "Analysis of gene expression in two large schizophrenia cohorts identifies multiple changes associated with nerve terminal function" Molecular Psychiatry, 3 March 2009 Corresponding author: Professor J de Belleroche.

Source: Imperial College London

Explore further: Self-regulation intervention boosts school readiness of at-risk children, study shows

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Senators get no clear answers on air bag safety

8 hours ago

There were apologies and long-winded explanations, but after nearly four hours of testimony about exploding Takata air bags, senators never got a clear answer to the question most people have: whether or ...

Nicaragua: Studies say canal impact to be minimal

8 hours ago

Officials said Thursday that studies have determined a $40 billion inter-oceanic canal across Nicaragua will have minimal impact on the environment and society, and construction is to begin next month.

Former Brown dean whose group won Nobel Prize dies

8 hours ago

David Greer, a doctor who co-founded a group that won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for working to prevent nuclear war and who helped transform the medical school at Brown University, has died. He was 89.

Recommended for you

Brains transform remote threats into anxiety

Nov 21, 2014

Modern life can feel defined by low-level anxiety swirling through society. Continual reports about terrorism and war. A struggle to stay on top of family finances and hold onto jobs. An onslaught of news ...

Mental disorders due to permanent stress

Nov 21, 2014

Activated through permanent stress, immune cells will have a damaging effect on and cause changes to the brain. This may result in mental disorders. The effects of permanent stress on the immune system are studied by the ...

Could there be a bright side to depression?

Nov 21, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—A group of researchers studying the roots of depression has developed a test that leads them closer to the idea that depression may actually be an adaptation meant to help people cope with ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.