The brains of people with schizophrenia are on 'red alert', study finds

August 8, 2012

New Australian research shows that the brains of people with schizophrenia may be under attack by the immune system, providing the strongest evidence to date of a link between immune function and schizophrenia.

In 40% of people with schizophrenia, increased was found in a part of the brain called the , a key brain region affected by schizophrenia.

“To find this immune pattern in nearly half of people with schizophrenia raises the possibility that this is in fact a new root cause of the disease,” says senior author of the study, Prof Cyndi Shannon Weickert from Neuroscience Research Australia.

Prof Shannon Weickert, Stuart Fillman and colleagues used new genetic tools to directly measure immune activity in the brains of people with schizophrenia and healthy people without the disease.

“The part of the brain we looked at is indeed ‘in crisis’ in people with schizophrenia. From the types of immune markers we measured it’s like the brain is on red alert,” says Prof Shannon Weickert.

Recent research has tended to focus on a link between early infections and the incidence of schizophrenia.

“Unlike previous studies, we have directly measured immune activity in parts of the brain known to be affected by schizophrenia,” says Prof Shannon Weickert.

Overactivity of the in the brains of people with schizophrenia means that future therapies for schizophrenia aimed at immune suppression will now be investigated.

“As there are multiple biological root causes of schizophrenia, the fact inflammation occurs in 40% of individuals is huge, and opens up a whole new range of treatment possibilities” Prof Shannon Weickert concluded.

The paper is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

How was this study done?

  • Brain tissue from the dorsolateral prefontal cortex from 37 people with schizophrenia and 37 healthy controls was used in this study.
  • SOLiD Next Generation Sequencing was used to look for changes in gene expression, particularly genes involved in .
  • Increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines were found in 40% of people with . Cytokines are proteins involved in cell-to-cell communication; pro-inflammatory cytokines drive immune responses, including the activation of microglia.

Explore further: The brains of people with schizophrenia may attempt to heal from the disease

Related Stories

The brains of people with schizophrenia may attempt to heal from the disease

August 8, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- New NeuRA research shows that the brains of people with schizophrenia may attempt to repair damage caused by the disease, in another example of the adult brain’s capacity to change and grow.

Potential target for treating schizophrenia found

May 11, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists at the University of Glasgow have identified a potential target for the treatment of schizophrenia.

Recommended for you

Many kinds of happiness promote better health, study finds

July 21, 2017
A new study links the capacity to feel a variety of upbeat emotions to better health.

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

Old antibiotic could form new depression treatment

July 19, 2017
An antibiotic used mostly to treat acne has been found to improve the quality of life for people with major depression, in a world-first clinical trial conducted at Deakin University.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.