Study links maternal illness to schizophrenia riskSeptember 19th, 2010 - 4:59 pm ICT by IANS
Sydney, Sep 19 (IANS) A breakdown in communications between two brain regions that points to symptoms of schizophrenia could be triggered by a maternal immune reaction to infection, a recent study says.
Desiree Dickerson, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Otago, who led the study, says the findings are an exciting step forward in understanding the brain mechanisms that underpin schizophrenia.
Dickerson said: “Many studies have found that infection during early-to-mid pregnancy slightly increases the overall risk of children developing this illness as adults, with recent research implicating the mother’s immune response.”
Dickerson says effective communication between brain regions requires the coordinated or synchronised firing of nerve cells within the brain.
“This can be compared to a crowd performing a Mexican wave. Brain cells in individuals with schizophrenia are like people trying to produce the Mexican wave independently and with poor timing - the wave doesn’t form cohesively and the message is distorted,” the Journal of Neuroscience quoted Dickerson as saying.
A Mexican wave is formed when crowds in a stadium rise up and down from their seats in succession.
Some of the symptoms of schizophrenia are social withdrawal, hostility or suspiciousness, deterioration of personal hygiene, flat, expressionless gaze and depression, besides delusions, hallucinations, disorganised speech and disorganised behaviour.
“Our new study shows that a single activation of an immune response during pregnancy can lead to adult offspring showing disrupted communication between two key brain regions implicated in schizophrenia,” says Dickerson.
The two brain regions are prefrontal cortex (orchestrates thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals) and hippocampus (linked with long-term memory and spatial navigation).
“Importantly, this study has provided a chance to examine what happens in schizophrenia at a biological level that would otherwise be inaccessible,” Dickerson added.
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Tags: adult offspring, brain cells, brain mechanisms, brain regions, delusions hallucinations, doctoral candidate, hippocampus, immune reaction, immune response, internal goals, long term memory, maternal illness, mexican wave, nerve cells, personal hygiene, schizophrenia risk, social withdrawal, spatial navigation, symptoms of schizophrenia, university of otago