Breakthrough into cause of schizophrenia

  • 28/01/2016

Scientists have found a new step in understanding the cause of schizophrenia, a study released on Wednesday (local time) reveals.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, linked the risk of developing schizophrenia through genes to a natural process called 'synaptic pruning'.

This is when the brain sheds weak or redundant connections between neurons as it matures.

This takes place during adolescence and early adulthood in the prefrontal cortex, where thinking and planning skills take place.

People who have genes that intensify that pruning are at higher risk of developing schizophrenia than those who do not, the study says.

The research supports previous study that shows people with schizophrenia tend to have a diminished number of neural connections compared with those without.

It then advances on this idea, saying people with schizophrenia have a gene variant that facilitates aggressive "tagging" of connections for pruning, accelerating the process, the New York Times explains.

Although this research has been considered ground-breaking, some experts think treatment will remain in the distant future, as it is another piece to a complicated puzzle.

The study was a combination of research by scientists from Harvard Medical School, Boston Children's Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, who hope therapies can be developed which help to address the root causes by limiting the pairing of healthy cells, The Guardian reports.

The researchers analysed 100,000 human DNA samples from 30 different countries.

Schizophrenia symptoms include hallucinations, emotional withdrawal, and a decline in cognitive function.

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