Cerebellum plays a major role in schizophrenia

June 22, 2017, University of Oslo
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.

In a new study, Norwegian researchers have documented that the cerebellum is among the most affected brain regions in schizophrenia. Compared to healthy individuals, cerebellar volume was smaller in patients with schizophrenia. The study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, is the largest brain imaging study to date on the cerebellum in schizophrenia, with important implications for our understanding of the disorder.

Although the cerebellum occupies only about 20 percent of the , it actually contains about 70 percent of all its neurons. This has traditionally been thought of as responsible for body movement and coordination, and has therefore often been ignored in research on the biological basis of psychological functions and .

The current study included brain scans from 2300 participants from 14 international sites. The researchers used sophisticated tools that allowed them to analyze both the volume and shape of the brain.

Surprisingly, the results showed that the cerebellum is among the brain regions with the strongest and most consistent differences in schizophrenia. On a group level, patients had smaller cerebellar volumes compared with healthy individuals. "These findings clearly show that the plays a major role in schizophrenia," says lead author Torgeir Moberget.

Most mental disorders emerge during childhood and adolescence, and a better understanding of the causes may give better patient care. "To develop treatments that could reverse or even prevent the disease we need to understand why some people are at risk of developing these serious illnesses in the first place," says senior author Lars T. Westlye.

The large sets of data allowed the researchers to identify very nuanced differences in brain volume in patients when compared with healthy controls. "It is important to emphasize that the we see in are generally very subtle. This is one reason why large collaborative studies are so important," Moberget says. "When we saw the same pattern repeated across many groups of patients and controls from different countries, the findings became much more convincing."

Explore further: Brain stimulation improves schizophrenia-like cognitive problems

More information: T Moberget et al. Cerebellar volume and cerebellocerebral structural covariance in schizophrenia: a multisite mega-analysis of 983 patients and 1349 healthy controls, Molecular Psychiatry (2017). DOI: 10.1038/mp.2017.106

Related Stories

Brain stimulation improves schizophrenia-like cognitive problems

March 28, 2017
"A beautiful, lobular structure," is how Krystal Parker describes the cerebellum - a brain region located at the base of the skull just above the spinal column. The cerebellum is most commonly associated with movement control, ...

Studies show that the cerebellum is crucial to understanding vulnerability to drug addiction

February 23, 2017
An international research team led by the Universitat Jaume I (UJI) has shown that the cerebellum, contrary to previous thought, fulfills functions that go beyond the motor sphere and can be co-responsible for the brain alterations ...

Study identifies brain abnormalities in people with schizophrenia

July 7, 2015
Structural brain abnormalities in patients with schizophrenia, providing insight into how the condition may develop and respond to treatment, have been identified in an internationally collaborative study led by a Georgia ...

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 ...

Brain development in schizophrenia strays from the normal path

September 15, 2014
Schizophrenia is generally considered to be a disorder of brain development and it shares many risk factors, both genetic and environmental, with other neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and intellectual disability.

MRI scans detect 'brain rust' in schizophrenia

December 7, 2016
A damaging chemical imbalance in the brain may contribute to schizophrenia, according to research presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Annual Meeting in Hollywood, Florida.

Recommended for you

Depression speeds up brain aging, find psychologists

May 24, 2018
Psychologists at the University of Sussex have found a link between depression and an acceleration of the rate at which the brain ages. Although scientists have previously reported that people with depression or anxiety have ...

People with family history of alcoholism release more dopamine in expectation of alcohol

May 23, 2018
People with a family history of alcohol use disorder (AUD) release more dopamine in the brain's main reward center in response to the expectation of alcohol than people diagnosed with the disorder, or healthy people without ...

Why we fail to understand our smartphone use

May 23, 2018
Checking your phone dozens of times a day indicates unconscious behaviour, which is "extremely repetitive" say psychologists.

Study confirms that men and women tend to adopt different navigation strategies

May 23, 2018
When navigating in a known environment, men prefer to take shortcuts to reach their destination more quickly, while women tend to use routes they know. This is according to Alexander Boone of UC Santa Barbara in the US who ...

Early life trauma in men associated with reduced levels of sperm microRNAs

May 22, 2018
Exposure to early life trauma can lead to poor physical and mental health in some individuals, which can be passed on to their children. Studies in mice show that at least some of the effects of stress can be transmitted ...

Training compassion 'muscle' may boost brain's resilience to others' suffering

May 22, 2018
It can be distressing to witness the pain of family, friends or even strangers going through a hard time. But what if, just like strengthening a muscle or learning a new hobby, we could train ourselves to be more compassionate ...

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.