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Posted: November 7th, 2022

Schizophrenia: Describe the symptoms of the disorder

Schizophrenia: Describe the symptoms of the disorder and how those symptoms are related to the brain structures

Schizophrenia is a complex mental disorder that affects how people think, feel, and behave. It can cause people to experience a disconnection from reality and symptoms that include hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thoughts. Schizophrenia is not a single condition, but a group of disorders that share some common features.

The symptoms of schizophrenia can be divided into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive. Positive symptoms are those that add something to the normal experience, such as hearing voices, seeing things that are not there, or having false beliefs. Negative symptoms are those that take away something from the normal experience, such as lack of emotion, motivation, or pleasure. Cognitive symptoms are those that affect the ability to think clearly, remember things, or plan ahead.

Schizophrenia is associated with several brain abnormalities that may contribute to the development and progression of the disorder. These include:

– **Alterations in brain structure**: Studies have shown that people with schizophrenia have thinner cortexes (the outer layer of the brain) and smaller volumes of certain brain regions, especially in the frontal and temporal lobes (1). The frontal lobe is responsible for functions such as memory, judgment, and social behavior, while the temporal lobe is involved in processing auditory stimuli, emotions, and language. People with schizophrenia also have enlarged cerebral ventricles (the fluid-filled spaces in the brain) and reduced white matter (the nerve fibers that connect different brain regions) (2). These structural changes may reflect neuronal loss, decreased dendritic branching, and synaptic dysfunction (3).
– **Abnormalities in brain chemistry**: Schizophrenia is also linked to imbalances or dysfunctions of certain neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers that transmit signals between neurons) in the brain. These include dopamine, glutamate, and serotonin. Dopamine is involved in regulating motor control, reward, and motivation. Glutamate is involved in learning and memory. Serotonin is involved in mood, sleep, and appetite. The exact role of these neurotransmitters in schizophrenia is not fully understood, but it is believed that they affect how different brain regions communicate with each other and process information (4).
– **Increased brain aging**: Schizophrenia may also accelerate the natural aging process of the brain. A study found that the brains of people with schizophrenia appeared to be about 3.5 years older than those without the disorder (5). This may be due to factors such as oxidative stress, inflammation, or genetic factors that affect the integrity and function of the brain cells.

Schizophrenia is a complex and multifactorial disorder that involves various aspects of brain structure and function. The exact causes and mechanisms of schizophrenia are still unknown, but research has identified some of the brain abnormalities that are associated with the disorder. Understanding how these abnormalities affect the symptoms and course of schizophrenia may help to develop better treatments and prevention strategies for this challenging condition.

References:

1. van Erp TG et al. Cortical Brain Abnormalities in 4474 Individuals With Schizophrenia and 5098 Control Subjects via the Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics Through Meta Analysis (ENIGMA) Consortium. Biol Psychiatry 2018;84(9):644-654.
2. Kelly S et al. Widespread white matter microstructural differences in schizophrenia across 4322 individuals: results from the ENIGMA Schizophrenia DTI Working Group. Mol Psychiatry 2018;23(5):1261-1269.
3. Konopaske GT et al. write my dissertation on Prefrontal cortical dendritic spine pathology in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. JAMA Psychiatry 2014;71(12):1323-1331.
4. Howes OD et al. The dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia: version III–the final common pathway. Schizophr Bull 2009;35(3):549-562.
5. Kaufmann T et al. Common brain disorders are associated with heritable patterns of apparent aging of the brain. Nat Neurosci 2019;22(10):1617-1623.

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