Schizophrenia a side effect of human development

Schizophrenia a side effect of human development
A false colour image of a brain of a person with schizophrenia. Credit: NIH

Schizophrenia may have evolved as an "unwanted side effect" of the development of the complex human brain, a new study has found.

The study identified changed gene expression in the area of the that is most different between humans and animals, including our closest species, non-human primates.

Published in Schizophrenia, the study was undertaken by a group of researchers from Swinburne, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health and University of Melbourne. It reveals major changes in gene expression in the frontal area of the brains of those with schizophrenia.

"This is the area of our brain that evolved latest and most sets us apart from other species," says Professor Brian Dean of Swinburne's Centre for Mental Health and the Florey Institute.

"There is the argument that schizophrenia is an unwanted side effect of developing a complex human brain and our findings seem to support that argument."

A genetic susceptibility

Schizophrenia is now thought to occur in people with a after they encounter a harmful environmental factor such as premature birth or drug use.

"It's thought that schizophrenia occurs when environmental factors trigger changes in gene expression in the human brain. Though this is not fully understood, our data suggests the frontal area of the brain is severely affected by such changes," says Professor Dean.

While undertaking the research, Professor Dean's team conducted a post-mortem study in which they compared gene expression between 15 patients with schizophrenia and 15 without.

In the instance of brains from people known to have had schizophrenia, the team found 566 instances of altered in the most frontal pole part of the brain, and fewer changes in proximal regions.

"These brain areas are known to mediate schizophrenia-related traits," says Professor Dean.

A key finding in this study is a pathway containing 97 differentially-expressed that contains a number of potential drug treatment targets that could particularly affect people with schizophrenia.

"A better understanding of changes in this pathway could suggest new drugs to treat the disorder," says Professor Dean.

The study paints a complex picture of the causes of , he says but it suggests modern technologies can be used to help unravel these complexities.

Explore further

Shared genetics in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

More information: Elizabeth Scarr et al. Changed frontal pole gene expression suggest altered interplay between neurotransmitter, developmental, and inflammatory pathways in schizophrenia, npj Schizophrenia (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41537-018-0044-x
Citation: Schizophrenia a side effect of human development (2018, February 21) retrieved 24 August 2019 from
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Feb 21, 2018
Our brain is an example of a form factor pushed far beyond its natural limits. It begins to deteriorate soon after maturity. It uses a much higher percentage of energy than the average animal. It is prone to all manner of genetic defects, and damage from toxins and injury starting in the womb. And it has been stressed further by the influence of tribal living and religion, which selected for brains that could tolerate irrationality and the rejection of many normal and natural behaviors, and the continuous tension that this causes.

The brains flawed design explains the prevalence of insanity and the wide disparity in intellectual capability.

If left to devolve in a totally natural environment it would no doubt shrink to a more sustainable size. But as more and more of its functionality is outsourced we may see the brain atrophy to a healthier and more natural state.

We might even want to engineer parts of it out; our undependable memory centers for instance.

Feb 21, 2018
This unnatural state may also explain the most dangerous defect of all - psychopathy. A psychopath is born not made, and their condition is at present untreatable.

It could be that the centers that give us our emotions, conscience, and the ability to empathize are among the easiest to leave out as the infant brain struggles to survive and grow.

Feb 21, 2018
If we can understand psychopathy we can perhaps figure out how to prevent it. But in the meantime we may be able to detect it and thus protect society from the predatory hunger of the psychopath.

It appears to be related to autism. People like Weinstein, Madoff, and the Sandy hook shooter all share this lack of conscience, empathy, and emotion, expressed in different ways.

A person who can shoot a youngster at point blank range, is by definition a psychopath. This is not evil. This is a physical malformity that can be detected and contained if not fixed.

"Most of us would not imagine any correspondence between conceiving an ethnic genocide and, say, guiltlessly lying to one's boss about a coworker. But the psychological correspondence is not only there; it is chilling... Those who have no conscience at all are a group unto themselves, whether they be homicidal tyrants or merely ruthless social snipers."

Feb 21, 2018
Psychosis is not sickness. It is a feature. Psychopathology aligned in the right context fulfills a role.
Cognitive disturbances may actually be operational features of our reality or speak of the constraints of the pinhole with which we view it.
Black and white, why yes we can use a surreal dichromatic check-board and its piercings through itself to derive all possible physical principles.
All-or-nothing, completeness any one?
Always being right, relativism or maybe a more mature empathetic perspectivism.
Now if you folks are seeking a physics for an ethical appeal for behavior. Perhaps you should look at Topos theory, but understand the agency of the landscape of complexity has roaming tribes.
All men are liars, killers, and thieves. There is no truth. Everything they have, they are given. No man has saved himself from death and even if he did, it would be by the passage of works of others.

Feb 21, 2018
oooo conclusions drawn from a study based on a sample of 30 subjects (there are at least 3 major paths of progression for schizophrenia, for a start), statistically speaking, good for generating avenues for future proper experiments, but to draw conclusions from this is little better than doing the same from anecdotal evidence

Feb 21, 2018
Psychopathology aligned in the right context fulfills a role
Yeah I suppose abusing and victimizing is appropriate in some contexts although I can't think of any at the moment. Can you provide any examples Kevin Spacey?

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