Scientists across the U.S. and Europe have joined forces on a collaborative study to uncover structural brain abnormalities associated with schizophrenia.
Researchers examined MRI brain scans of 2,028 schizophrenics and compared them against 2,540 healthy patients. The same analysis was done at 15 centers across the globe, and each was completed using the same process and statistical models. The results were then combined and used to identify regions of the brain that were structurally different from the healthy controls.
They found that schizophrenic brains have less volume in the thalamus, hippocampus, nucleus accumbens, intracranial space, and hippocampus compared to the healthy brains. Schizophrenic brains also have larger volumes of ventricle and pallidum regions, compared to the healthy controls.
The findings from this study, recently published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, may offer significant insight into how schizophrenia develops. This in turn can help with developing more effective treatment methods for the chronic mental disorder that’s estimated to affect over 20 million individuals worldwide.
This particular study is also valuable because it’s the biggest brain meta-analysis in schizophrenia to date—and it isn’t just pulled from past literature. This type of collaborative research yields massive datasets, but also allows for scientific input from around the globe. Having different perspectives can change the way local researchers think about disorders like schizophrenia, paving the way for even more breakthroughs and discoveries.
The next step would be to apply this practice to other disorders, such as major depression, bipolar disorder, autism, and attention deficit disorder, in order to identify which parts of the brain are most affected and to determine how factors like age and environment come into play.
Sources for Today’s article:
“Brain abnormalities in people with schizophrenia identified,” Science Daily web site, July 7, 2015; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150707102051.htm.
“Schizophrenia,” World Health Organization web site; http://www.who.int/mental_health/management/schizophrenia/en/, last accessed July 8, 2015.