Neuroscientists Develop New Model to Better Understand Schizophrenia

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Neuroscientists Develop New Model to Better Understand Schizophrenia

There are various programs in several countries that provide care to people with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia through the primary healthcare system / Gorodenkoff via Shutterstock

 

A lot of people are now discussing the issues surrounding mental health. The conversations and discussions have shed light on the stigma attached to the condition and why there's a need to talk about it. One of the mental health conditions that, although not very common, can be a serious and chronic one, is schizophrenia. According to an article by MentalHealth.net, about 1% of the world's population is diagnosed with schizophrenia and over 1.2% of Americans or 3.2 million people have the disorder. 

Although schizophrenia is less likely to occur in early adulthood, it can affect people throughout their lifespan. Children and older adults who have developed this kind disorder are relatively rare, but it can happen. However, reports have shown that the incidence of new cases of schizophrenia rises during the teen years, particularly between ages 16 and 25. Previous studies also revealed that men and women show different patterns for developing schizophrenic symptoms. For instance, males reach a single peak of vulnerability between the ages of 18 and 25 years while females do so between 25 and 30 years, and then again around 40 years of age.

The World Health Organization also reported that people who are suffering from schizophrenia are two to three times more likely to die earlier than the general population. This is because they often acquire physical diseases, such as metabolic disease and infections, as well as cardiovascular conditions. Although having diagnosed with the mental issue at first can be scary, people suffering should be aware that there are treatments and help for them. 

Knowing More about Schizophrenia

This serious mental health disorder basically makes people interpret reality abnormally. According to an article by the Mayo Clinic, schizophrenia may result in some factors, such as delusions, hallucinations, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior. These signs can greatly affect one's functioning and can also be disabling. People who are suffering from this disorder require lifelong treatment. However, it is important that they get early treatment immediately to help get the symptoms under control. 

WHO reported that schizophrenia has affected more than 23 million people around the world. However, there has been no single factor that might have caused this disorder; researchers and scientists stated that it can be a combination of genetics, the environment where people exist, and brain chemistry. Aside from that, problems with certain occurring brain chemicals, such as neurotransmitters called glutamate and dopamine, can be some of the factors. 

Some of the risk factors that might contribute to the developing or triggering of schizophrenia include increased immune system activation, having a family history of schizophrenia, pregnancy and birth complications, taking mind-altering drugs, and many more. According to an article by the American Psychiatric Association, some of the symptoms include hallucinations, such as paranoid delusions, hearing voices, and exaggerated or distorted behaviors, beliefs, and perceptions; an inability to speak, initiate plans, and express emotion; disordered and confused thinking, and any more. 

Schizophrenia may result in some factors, such as delusions, hallucinations, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior / Photographee.eu via Shutterstock

 

Recently, neuroscientists from the University of Queensland have developed a new animal model of schizophrenia that can help researchers around the world to better understand the disorder and even develop new treatments. An article by the Science Daily reported that the study has the potential to address some of the underlying fundamental mechanisms involved in the disorder. According to the researchers, schizophrenia is linked to the change in the way the brain uses the neurotransmitter often referred to as the brain's “reward molecule” called dopamine. 

In an interview, Professor Darryl Eyles at UQ's Queensland Brain Institute said, "New research also shows that these changes are most pronounced in the dorsal or upper portion of the striatum, not the ventral striatum where we've been focused for many years." However, there are no studies that showed why excessive dopamine released in the brain region called the striatum can lead to the symptoms of the disorder. Because of that, the researchers developed a new animal model of schizophrenia. In this model, dopamine is specifically elevated in the dorsal striatum.

The researchers then used the brain of rats to deliver genetic constructs, which changed their behaviors. Some of the changes are impairments in monitoring sensory information and increased locomotion under certain circumstances. Some of these symptoms mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia. Author Alice Petty said, "We plan to use this model to identify compounds that prevent unwanted dopamine release in the dorsal striatum. This could lead to treatments that could either diminish symptom severity or even prevent schizophrenia."

Managing Schizophrenia

Living with schizophrenia can be really hard not only on the person suffering from it but also on the people around them. Fortunately, there are treatments and medications that can lead to highly productive lives. In fact, there are a number of therapies that can help them manage their illness. They can help them in coping with stress, learning social skills, identifying early warning signs of relapse, and prolonging periods of remission. 

There are now various programs in several countries that provide care to people with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia through the primary healthcare system. It offers them access to essential drugs, educating the public to decrease stigma and discrimination, facilitating independent living, recovery-oriented psychosocial interventions, and many more.

 

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