Schizophrenia, a mental disorder that influences how a person thinks, acts and feels, currently does not have a cure, but the findings of a new study using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), offers hope to patients affected by the condition.
For their research published in the Psychology Medicine journal on May 26, Lena Palaniyappan from London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) used MRI and a covariance analysis to record the increase of brain tissue in 98 patients with schizophrenia and compared the results with those of 83 without the disease.
The researchers found evidence that suggests the brains of schizophrenia patients have the ability to repair themselves to fight the mental illness.
Schizophrenia, a condition marked by the inability to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong, is believed to be a degenerative illness. Current treatments for schizophrenic patients are mostly focused on reducing and managing symptoms rather than reversing the condition.
The study, however, showed that while schizophrenia is generally linked to a widespread reduction in brain tissue volume, certain regions of the brain among those with the condition showed a subtle increase in tissue over time.
The findings suggest that in terms of gray matter volume, the brains of schizophrenic patients become more "normal" the longer that they have the condition.
"Within the patient group, reduced thickness was consistently accompanied by increased thickness in distributed brain regions," the researchers reported in their study.
"While temporo-limbic and fronto-parietal regions showed reduced thickness, the occipital cortex showed increased thickness, especially in those with a long-standing illness."
Palaniyappan said that regardless of tissue damage, the schizophrenic patient's brain constantly attempt to reorganize itself, which could possibly hint that it tries to limit the damage of, or even rescue itself from the disease.
The findings of the study are important in that it shows brain tissue can repair itself. This suggests of the possibility for targeted treatments that can potentially reverse the effects of schizophrenia.
"Dr. Palaniyappan and his colleagues have opened new avenues of research into our understanding of schizophrenia," said LHSC Psychiatry Chief Paul Links. "Their findings may lead us to be able to harness the brain's own compensatory changes in the face of this illness and improve recovery."
A study published earlier in May suggested that women who smoke during pregnancy place their offspring at increased risk of developing schizophrenia. Refugees have also been shown to be at elevated risk for the disease, along with other psychotic illnesses.