First physiological test for schizophrenia and depression

March 13, 2017, The Physiological Society
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and other brain imaging technologies allow for the study of differences in brain activity in people diagnosed with schizophrenia. The image shows two levels of the brain, with areas that were more active in healthy controls than in schizophrenia patients shown in orange, during an fMRI study of working memory. Credit: Kim J, Matthews NL, Park S./PLoS One.

Researchers have found a new way of using proteins in nerve cells to identify people with depression and schizophrenia. The method, reported in Experimental Physiology, will help identify people whose depression or schizophrenia involves signalling via a receptor called NMDAR, and differentiate between the two diseases. At present, there are no diagnostic tests to help distinguish them.

NMDA receptor signalling may be decreased in and increased in those with . The authors hope that this research is the first step towards producing a test to identify certain forms of depression and schizophrenia. Distinguishing this specific form of these diseases could allow for earlier and more accurate diagnoses as well as more targeted treatment.

Depression is thought to affect over 300 million people worldwide1 and schizophrenia affects as many as 51 million people2. Both diseases have severe impacts on sufferers' lives3.

The researchers infused patients with a high concentration salt solution to induce the release of the hormone arginine-vasopressin (AVP), and then measured the level of the hormone in their blood. Previously, animal studies had shown that the release of AVP in response to the salt solution depends on NMDA receptor signalling. In this study, they found that AVP release can distinguish schizophrenia from depression.

Depressed patients showed an increased release of the hormone, while patients with schizophrenia showed a decreased response. Clinically, it is difficult to distinguish between these two diseases in their early phases, because symptoms are non-specific and relatively mild. This may be a simple way to distinguish and identify patients with NMDA receptor malfunction in each disorder. The study was a collaboration among Yale University, The John B. Pierce Laboratory, New Haven and the VA Medical Center, West Haven, Connecticut.

Handan Gunduz-Bruce, co-author of the paper, said, "This is the first objective, physiological marker for two major psychiatric disorders that, once fully developed into a clinical test, can allow for earlier and more accurate diagnosis, and selection of more appropriate medications for patients."

Explore further: Non-severe infections can cause serious mental disorders

More information: A translational approach for NMDA receptor profiling as a vulnerability biomarker for depression and schizophrenia. DOI: 10.1113/EP086212

Related Stories

Non-severe infections can cause serious mental disorders

February 1, 2017
A new study shows that non-severe infections that do not require hospitalisation can also increase the risk of subsequently developing schizophrenia or depression.

Earlier and more severe depression symptoms associated with high genetic risk for major psychiatric disorders

February 7, 2017
Clinical features of major depressive disorder (MDD) may help identify specific subgroups of depressed patients based on associations with genetic risk for major psychiatric disorders, reports a study in Biological Psychiatry. ...

Intracellular dopamine receptor function may offer hope to schizophrenia patients

December 9, 2016
Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that plays an important role in controlling movement, emotion and cognition. Dopamine dysfunction is believed to be one of the causes of disorders like Schizophrenia, Tourette's syndrome, ...

Hearing deficits in schizophrenia tied to specific brain receptor

December 5, 2016
The inability to hear subtle changes in pitch, a common and debilitating problem for people with schizophrenia, is due to dysfunctional N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) brain receptors, according to a study by Columbia University ...

FDA approves new drug for schizophrenia, major depression

July 13, 2015
(HealthDay)—A new drug to treat schizophrenia and depression has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Link between schizophrenia and sleep apnoea

August 24, 2016
New University of Adelaide research at the Lyell McEwin Hospital has shown that people with schizophrenia are 3.4 times more likely to have severe obstructive sleep apnoea than people without.

Recommended for you

New research has revealed we are actually better at remembering names than faces

November 14, 2018
With the Christmas party season fast approaching, there will be plenty of opportunity to re-live the familiar, and excruciatingly-awkward, social situation of not being able to remember an acquaintance's name.

Brain changes found in self-injuring teen girls

November 13, 2018
The brains of teenage girls who engage in serious forms of self-harm, including cutting, show features similar to those seen in adults with borderline personality disorder, a severe and hard-to-treat mental illness, a new ...

The illusion of multitasking boosts performance

November 13, 2018
Our ability to do things well suffers when we try to complete several tasks at once, but a series of experiments suggests that merely believing that we're multitasking may boost our performance by making us more engaged in ...

Major traumatic injury increases risk of mental health diagnoses, suicide

November 12, 2018
People who experience major injuries requiring hospital admission, such as car crashes and falls, are at substantially increased risk of being admitted to hospital for mental health disorders, found a study in CMAJ (Canadian ...

Nearly one in ten Americans struggles to control sexual urges

November 9, 2018
(HealthDay)—The #MeToo movement has given many Americans a glimpse into an unfamiliar world that may have left many wondering, "What were they thinking?"

Brain activity pattern may be early sign of schizophrenia

November 8, 2018
Schizophrenia, a brain disorder that produces hallucinations, delusions, and cognitive impairments, usually strikes during adolescence or young adulthood. While some signs can suggest that a person is at high risk for developing ...

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.