Washington | In a breakthrough, scientists have linked the symptoms of schizophrenia with the brain’s anatomical features by using sophisticated brain-imaging techniques, a finding that may lead to new treatments for the disorder.
By analysing the brain’s anatomy, researchers have demonstrated the existence of distinctive subgroups among patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, who suffer from different symptoms.
The findings by researchers from the University of Granada in Spain, Washington University in St Louis, and University of South Florida in US could herald a significant step forward in the diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia.
For the study, researchers employed a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique called ‘diffusion tensor imaging’ on 36 healthy subjects and 47 schizophrenic subjects. The tests conducted on the schizophrenic subjects showed that they had various abnormalities in certain parts of their corpus callosum, a bundle of neural fibres that connects the right and left cerebral hemispheres and is considered essential for effective interhemispheric communication.
When the researchers detected anomalies in the brain’s entire corpus callosum, they discovered that certain characteristic features revealed in the brain scans coincided with specific schizophrenic symptoms.
For instance, patients with specific features in a particular part of the corpus callosum exhibited strange and disorganised behaviour. In other subjects, the irregularities observed in a different part of this brain structure were associated with disorganised thought and speech, and negative symptoms such as a lack of emotion.
Other anomalies in the brain’s corpus callosum were associated with hallucinations. The current study provides further evidence that schizophrenia is a heterogeneous group of disorders, as opposed to a single illness, as was previously thought to be case, said Igor Zwir from University of Granada.
In order to conduct the analysis of both the gene groups and brain scans, the researchers developed a new, complex analysis of the relationships between different types of data and recommendations concerning new data.
Currently, treatments for schizophrenia tend to be generic, regardless of the symptoms exhibited by each individual patient. The findings were published in the journal NeuroImage.
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