Study finds infection and schizophrenia symptom link

November 22, 2017, University of Otago
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.

If a mother's immune system is activated by infection during pregnancy, it could result in critical cognitive deficits linked to schizophrenia in her offspring, a University of Otago study has revealed.

Lead author Dr Ryan Ward, of the Department of Psychology, says schizophrenia is thought to result from an interaction of genetic and environmental "hits". Over time, the combination of these hits leads to development of the disease.

"One environmental hit that has been shown to be a significant risk factor is activation of the maternal immune , likely caused by illness during pregnancy,'' he says.

The study, recently published in the journal Plos ONE, found activation of the maternal immune system in rats was sufficient to produce impaired timing, which is likely critical to other schizophrenia symptoms and impairments.

Impaired ability to judge time accurately is a primary symptom in patients and this is also thought to be related to other symptoms, such as hallucinations, and .

The study revealed adult offspring, whose mothers experienced infection during pregnancy, overestimated time, similar to patients with schizophrenia.

This is the first study to show that maternal by itself is sufficient to produce timing impairments, indicating it could be responsible, in the absence of other risk factors such as genetic differences, for one of the most robust and detrimental schizophrenia-relevant impairments in humans.

As a result, Dr Ward recommended pregnant women be vigilant with their health.

"Taking extra care during should be a primary goal for expectant mothers and healthcare providers, as illness during this time can have far-reaching consequences. For those with a family history of , this becomes even more important.''

It is hoped research such as this will result in improvements to the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of .

Explore further: Is schizophrenia a disorder of the immune system?

More information: Ashley R. Deane et al. Maternal immune activation in rats produces temporal perception impairments in adult offspring analogous to those observed in schizophrenia, PLOS ONE (2017). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0187719

Related Stories

Is schizophrenia a disorder of the immune system?

July 19, 2016
Using data from the largest ever genetic study of schizophrenia, researchers have shed light on the role of the immune system.

Study looks at maternal smoking in pregnancy, severe mental illness in offspring

May 3, 2017
A population-based study that analyzed data for nearly 1.7 million people born in Sweden suggests family-related factors, rather than causal teratogenic effects (birth defect causing), may explain much of the association ...

Study uncovers possible roots of schizophrenia

August 16, 2017
An abundance of an amino acid called methionine, which is common in meat, cheese and beans, may provide new clues to the fetal brain development that can manifest in schizophrenia, University of California, Irvine pharmacology ...

Eating oily fish during pregnancy could prevent schizophrenia in the child, new study suggests

September 7, 2017
Mice that are deprived of an essential fatty acid, called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), during pregnancy, are more likely to produce pups that display schizophrenia-like symptoms as adults, according to a new study from Japan.

Could flu during pregnancy raise risk for autism?

June 21, 2017
Researchers at the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health found no evidence that laboratory-diagnosis alone of maternal influenza during pregnancy is associated with ...

How mom's immune system is linked to autism risk

September 23, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Activating a mother's immune system during her pregnancy disrupts the development of neural cells in the brain of her offspring and damages the cells' ability to transmit signals and communicate with one ...

Recommended for you

Greening vacant lots reduces feelings of depression in city dwellers, study finds

July 20, 2018
Greening vacant urban land significantly reduces feelings of depression and improves overall mental health for the surrounding residents, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine and the School of Arts & Sciences ...

People love to hate on do-gooders, especially at work

July 20, 2018
Sometimes, it doesn't pay to be a do-gooder, according to a new University of Guelph study.

New study questions use of talking therapy as a treatment for schizophrenia

July 20, 2018
The findings of the first meta-analysis examining the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for psychosis (CBTp) on improving the quality of life and functioning and reducing distress of people diagnosed with schizophrenia ...

Perfectionism in young children may indicate OCD risk

July 19, 2018
Studying young children, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that kids who possess tendencies toward perfectionism and excessive self-control are twice as likely as other children to ...

Finding well-being through an aerial, as opposed to ground-level, view of time

July 19, 2018
Do today and yesterday and tomorrow loom large in your thinking, with the more distant past and future barely visible on the horizon? That's not unusual in today's time-pressed world—and it seems a recipe for angst.

Younger children tend to make more informed decisions

July 19, 2018
A new study from the University of Waterloo has found that in some ways, the older you get the worse your decision making becomes.

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.