Recent discoveries presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Annual Meeting shed new light on the causes of schizophrenia. A chemical imbalance, similar to metal oxidation, may be one of the main factors that cause the severe affliction, according to the research.
Brain Oxidation And The Processes Behind It
Schizophrenia is an affliction known by scientists for a very long time, especially as its effects on an individual's relationships and quality of life are very severe. Certain treatment schemes have proven to be efficient in reducing the symptoms, but the exact causes of schizophrenia have eluded scientists so far.
This may very well be about to change due to the efforts of a team from McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who discovered a strong connection between the so-called "brain oxidation" and schizophrenia.
The advances in technology have allowed the scientists to study the patients in a non-invasive manner. Called magnetic resonance spectroscopy, the technique uses MRI machines to analyze the presence of two molecules, NAD+ and NADH, as well as their concentrations. The purpose of the analysis was to see how brains manage the excessive presence of oxidants.
The results were revealing — patients diagnosed with schizophrenia had much higher levels of NADH than healthy subjects, by an average of 53 percent. People diagnosed with bipolar disorder were also tested and also showed increased levels of NADH, but not to the same extent.
"Intensive energy demands on brain cells leads to accumulation of highly reactive oxygen species, such as free radicals and hydrogen peroxide," noted Dr. Fei Du, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
More specifically, the discovery shows that the same process involved in the oxidation of metals appears in the case of brains that show abnormal activity, especially in the case of schizophrenia. This discovery is very important for understanding the biology of this affliction and for developing treatments and ways to improve patients' lives.
A Serious Disorder Without A Cure
Schizophrenia is a very serious mental disorder, being one of the top 10 causes of disability in the developed world. It is estimated to affect 51 million people at a global scale, severely damaging their wellbeing, as well as that of their families. People diagnosed with this affliction are at a greater risk of being jailed or becoming homeless.
Although no cure has been found so far, treatment of symptoms has been shown to work in many cases, especially if the disorder is diagnosed early. However, some scientists claim that a cure may also be found within 10 years as more progress is made in understanding its causes.