Brain cells of schizophrenia patients breakdown in a haphazard manner, finds study

Brain cells of schizophrenia patients breakdown in a haphazard manner, finds study

Schizophrenia is one of the most devastating mental health disorders that affects 1 percent of the world’s population. A unique trait of schizophrenia that distinguishes it from other mental health disorders is the chaos and confusion in mental processing, arising from extremely fast processing of the brain. As a result, the patient loses the ability to think and speak comprehensively. Instead, there is a jumble of random thoughts and incoherent words that make little sense to anybody, except the patient himself or herself.

The disordered thinking and behavior associated with schizophrenia could be attributed to the significant disruptions in the synchronization of the brain cells, according to a recent study by the researchers at the Columbia University.

“If you think of the neurons in the schizophrenic mice as pixels on a TV screen, it’s as if most of the pixels have been scrambled. Each pixel no longer relates to its neighbor to form a coherent, stable picture,” said Jordan Hamm, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University, and lead author of the study.

Random firing of neurons in visual cortex may lead to schizophrenia

Schizophrenia causes social isolation which, in turn, worsens the existing symptoms. As the person is no longer able to get his or her point across because of disordered thinking and incoherent patterns of speech, he or she becomes a recluse. Schizophrenia can occur in different forms such as positive, negative and cognitive, however, there is no common semblance between the three. As a result, further research is needed to understand the triggering factors of the disease, so that appropriate diagnosis and treatment can take place.

Since impaired visual processing is the most prominent sign of schizophrenia, the researchers focused on the visual cortex, which plays an important role in processing visual information. Next, they recorded the flashes of light given out by each neuron. In healthy mice, the activity was found to occur in a consistent manner in a group of 60-120 neurons. In contrast, neurons in mice with schizophrenia fired off without any synchronization. Unlike the activity of neurons in normal mice which seemed choreographed, the activity of neurons in mice with symptoms of schizophrenia was isolated. Whether the psychotic defects were chemically induced through regular dosages of ketamine, an anesthetic responsible for psychotic behavior, or genetically caused through mutations, both showed a similar pattern of random and isolated neuron activity.

Previous studies had revealed that if neurons present in the visual cortex were repeatedly stimulated, the result was the simultaneous firing of neurons. According to Dr. Rafael Yuste, senior author and neuroscientist at Columbia, this could be indicative of the process through which memories and thoughts are formed. Considered as one of the important takeaways of the study, it throws light on how neural pathways could be manipulated and increasingly used for the treatment of schizophrenia.

“The pattern emerging from this analysis is one of profound disorganization, as though neurons were acting on their own rather than as a coherent group,” said study co-author Dr. Joseph Gogos, a neuroscientist at Columbia University Medical Center and Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute.

Road to recovery

Along with regular medication, alternative treatment options like typical and atypical antipsychotics, psychological interventions and skill training can help a person with schizophrenia to live a fulfilling life.

If you or a loved one is suffering from any kind of psychiatric disorders, get in touch with the Florida Mental Health Helpline to know about the best mental disorder treatment in Florida. You may call our 24/7 helpline number 866-846-5588 or chat online for more information on rehab centers in Florida.

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