New hope for schizophrenia patients

April 21st, 2009 - 10:46 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, April 21 (IANS) There is new hope for schizophrenia patients as Canadian researchers have uncovered key processes in the brain that control the emotional impact of experiences and how human beings form memories of them.
In people who suffer from schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), emotional experiences can become distorted, causing the person to “lose touch” with reality. Over 51 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia.

But the new research claims that a lack of proper function in the brain’s pre-frontal cortex area leads to schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers at the University of Western Ontario (based in the Canadian city of London)say they have discovered specific receptors in the neurotransmitter dopamine, which transmit messages through the brain, that can control how the brain processes emotionally significant experiences and their memories.

In their experiments on a rodent to study emotional learning and memory formation, when the researchers increased the activity of a specific dopamine receptor in the brain’s pre-frontal cortex, they found it was able to transform a normally insignificant emotional experience into a very strong emotional memory.

In contrast, when a different dopamine system was activated, it was able to block the ability to recall an emotionally charged experience.

“Our findings have profound implications for understanding how specific brain receptors can control the magnitude of emotional experience and memory formation,” research leader Steven Laviolette, a professor in the university’s department of anatomy and cell biology, was quoted as saying.

“Targeting these receptor systems pharmacologically may offer new therapeutic treatments for controlling the emotional perception and memory deficits observed in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and PTSD,” he said.

The study has been published online by The Journal of Neuroscience.

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