Schizophrenia drugs raise the volume of a key signaling system in the brain

May 12, 2010
A newly identified signaling system in the brain could lead to improved drugs for schizophrenia. Credit: iStock

All the major groups of medications for schizophrenia turn up the volume of a brain signal known to be muted in individuals with this psychiatric disorder -- a signal that also can be influenced by diet. "This is the first example of a common but specific molecular effect produced by all antipsychotic drugs in any biological system," scientists note in the current edition of ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

In the report, Eric J. Aamodt and colleagues explained that scientists know little about how work, aside from the drugs' effects on one signaling chemical called dopamine. New studies, for instance, suggested that medications like olanzapine, quetiapine, and also affect other signaling systems in the brain.

These systems, including one termed the Akt signaling pathway, influence behavior by regulating communication between . To fill those gaps in knowledge, the scientists turned to genetically modified forms of a worm, C. elegans, often used as a stand-in for people in such research. The tiny creatures were wired to glow green to show activity of Akt, a signal that is too quiet in schizophrenic brains.

They found that all of the 13 antipsychotic drugs tested, representative of all major categories of antipsychotic medications, helped the worms maintain their characteristic green glow. The results highlight the importance of Akt signaling in schizophrenia, suggesting that medications or other approaches that increase Akt signaling might help to alleviate the symptoms of . Other labs have identified certain dietary measures that may also increase Akt signaling.

Explore further: Know the brain, and its axons, by the clothes they wear

More information: "Antipsychotic Drugs Activate the C. elegans Akt Pathway via the DAF-2 Insulin/IGF-1 Receptor", ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

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not rated yet May 12, 2010
Glowing green worms testing drugs for schizophrenia, brillant
not rated yet May 13, 2010
In order to be really useful for people with the disease, an article like this should list the food categories or types that can help. What's the point of noting "diet helps too" without telling us WHICH foods?
not rated yet May 13, 2010
A study critique: Isn't this bad science and circular reasoning? They find a common effect from these drugs, then conclude that the absence of this effect is causal in human schizophrenics BECAUSE these drugs affect it. Huh? Shouldn't you first establish the biologic dysfunction in human schizophrenics, and then test substances which treat that? How are studies like this removed from religious cures?

They basically said, "Our medications work! See? Amongst many differences we found that they increase Akt signalling! And we prescribe them for schizophrenia! Therefore schizophrenia is caused by a lack of Akt, and we treat that!"

Huh? Here's my study: Worms during rain storms exhibit increased stress and compulsive behavior (coming up for air). OCD patients are commonly stressed and do compulsive things. They need less water.

Studies of this caliber are part of the reason 4 year olds are getting antipsychotics and antiepileptics to treat excitability.

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