Imaging study shows promising results for patients with schizophrenia

May 27, 2016, Lawson Health Research Institute
Dynamic cerebral reorganization in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia: a, MRI-derived cortical thickness study. Credit: Lena Palaniyappan

A team of scientists from across the globe have shown that the brains of patients with schizophrenia have the capacity to reorganize and fight the illness. This is the first time that imaging data has been used to show that our brains may have the ability to reverse the effects of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is an illness generally associated with a widespread reduction in volume. However, a recent study found that a subtle increase in tissue also occurs in certain brain regions.

The study followed 98 patients with and compared them to 83 patients without schizophrenia. The team used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and a sophisticated approach called covariance analysis to record the amount of brain tissue increase. Due to the subtlety and the distributed nature of increase, this had not been demonstrated in patients before now.

According to Lawson Health Research Institute's Dr. Lena Palaniyappan, there is an overarching feeling that curing people with a severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia is not possible. "Even the state-of-art frontline treatments aim merely for a reduction rather than a reversal of the cognitive and functional deficits caused by the illness," says Dr. Palaniyappan, who is the Medical Director at the Prevention & Early Intervention Program for Psychoses (PEPP) at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).

This comes from a long-standing notion that schizophrenia is a degenerative illness, with the seeds of damage sown very early during the course of brain development. "Our results highlight that despite the severity of tissue damage, the brain of a patient with schizophrenia is constantly attempting to reorganize itself, possibly to rescue itself or limit the damage," says Dr. Palaniyappan.

The team's next step is to clarify the evolution of this brain tissue reorganization process by repeatedly scanning individual patients with early schizophrenia and study the effect of this reorganization on their recovery.

"These findings are important not only because of their novelty and the rigour of the study, but because they point the way to the development of targeted treatments that potentially could better address some of the core pathology in schizophrenia," explains Dr. Jeffrey Reiss, Site Chief, Psychiatry, LHSC. "Brain plasticity and the development of related therapies would contribute to a new optimism in an illness that was 100 years ago described as premature dementia for its seemingly progressive deterioration."

"Dr. Palaniyappan and his colleagues have opened new avenues of research into our understanding of schizophrenia," says Dr. Paul Links, Chair/Chief, Psychiatry, LHSC. "Their findings may lead us to be able to harness the brain's own compensatory changes in the face of this illness and improve recovery. We are excited that Dr. Palaniyappan will be continuing this important clinical research here in London with his international colleagues."

The project is the result of an international collaboration among scientists in Nottingham, UK, Shanghai and Changsha, People's Republic of China, Robarts Research Institutes at Western University and Lawson Health Research Institute.

The study, "Dynamic cerebral reorganization in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia: a MRI-derived cortical thickness study" is published online in the current issue of Psychology Medicine.

Explore further: Structural brain connectivity as a genetic marker for schizophrenia

More information: S. Guo et al, Dynamic cerebral reorganization in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia: a MRI-derived cortical thickness study, Psychological Medicine (2016). DOI: 10.1017/S0033291716000994

Related Stories

Structural brain connectivity as a genetic marker for schizophrenia

November 25, 2015
Schizophrenia has been considered an illness of disrupted brain connectivity since its earliest descriptions. Several studies have suggested brain white matter is affected not only in patients with schizophrenia but also ...

Discovery of the characteristics of subcortical regions in schizophrenia

March 18, 2016
A Japanese research group found that patients with schizophrenia demonstrated a specific leftward volumetric asymmetry for the globus pallidus, one of the basal ganglia of the brain. The basal ganglia are involved in motivation ...

New schizophrenia treatments may be effective for subgroup of patients

December 8, 2015
Mounting evidence indicates that disturbances in the brain's glutamate pathway contribute to symptoms of schizophrenia. Thus, the glutamate pathway has become the target of a number of new drug therapies. Findings published ...

Study finds inflammation in the brain is linked to risk of schizophrenia

October 16, 2015
A study published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry is the first to find that immune cells are more active in the brains of people at risk of schizophrenia as well as those already diagnosed with the disease.

Advanced MRI scans could help predict people at risk of schizophrenia

May 11, 2015
New scanning methods which map the wiring of the brain could provide a valuable new tool to predict people at risk of schizophrenia, according to a new study.

Schizophrenia: A disorder of neurodevelopment and accelerated aging?

March 6, 2013
Many lines of evidence indicate that schizophrenia is a disorder of neurodevelopment. For example, genes implicated in the heritable risk for schizophrenia are also implicated in the development of nerve cells and their connections. ...

Recommended for you

Researcher unlocking relationship between early math ability, fingers

March 23, 2018
Ask toddlers how old they are, and they are likely to hold up the corresponding number of fingers and say, "this many."

Analyzing past failures may boost future performance by reducing stress

March 23, 2018
Insights from past failures can help boost performance on a new task—and a new study is the first to explain why. US researchers report that writing critically about past setbacks leads to lower levels of the "stress" hormone, ...

How reciprocity can magnify inequality

March 22, 2018
People tend to reciprocate others' actions in ways that increase disparities in wealth, according to findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Building tolerance to anxiety is key to OCD symptom relief

March 22, 2018
Excessive hand washing, out of a fear of contamination or germs, is one of the most common and best-known examples of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. Though OCD can't be "cured," symptoms can be significantly reduced ...

Stopping exercise can increase symptoms of depression

March 22, 2018
Stopping exercise can result in increased depressive symptoms, according to new mental health research from the University of Adelaide.

Antioxidants and amino acids could play role in the treatment of psychosis

March 22, 2018
A scientific paper has revealed that some nutrients found in food may help reduce the symptoms of psychotic illness, when used in the early stages of treatment.


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.