"We're finding that some portion of cognitive impairment usually blamed solely on the disease of schizophrenia might actually be a combination of schizophrenia and prior exposure to herpes simplex virus 1 infection, which reproduces in the brain," says study leader David J. Schretlen, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The research, described in the May Schizophrenia Research, could lead to new ways to treat or prevent the cognitive impairment that typically accompanies this mental illness, including with antiviral drugs, the scientists say.
Doctors have long known that cognitive impairment, including problems with psychomotor speed, concentration, learning, and memory, are prevalent features of schizophrenia, which affects an estimated one percent of the U.S. population. Cognitive deficits often surface months to years before symptoms that are traditionally used to diagnose this disease, such as delusions or hallucinations.
Some previous studies have shown that schizophrenic patients with antibodies to herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), the virus that causes cold sores, often have more severe cognitive deficits than patients without these antibodies. Other studies have shown that patients with HSV-1 antibodies have decreased brain volumes compared to patients without the antibodies. However, it has been unclear whether the cognitive deficits are directly related to the decreased brain volume.
To investigate, Schretlen and his colleagues recruited 40 schizophrenic patients from outpatient clinics at the Johns Hopkins and Sheppard Enoch Pratt hospitals in Baltimore, Md. Blood tests showed that 25 of the patients had antibodies for HSV-1 and 15 didn't. The researchers gave all of the patients tests to measure speed of coordination, organizational skills and verbal memory. The patients then underwent MRI brain scans to measure the volume of particular regions of their brains.
As in previous studies, results showed that patients with antibodies to HSV-1 performed significantly worse on the cognitive tests than patients without the antibodies. But expanding on those earlier studies, analysis of the brain scans showed that the same patients who performed poorly on the tests also had reduced brain volume in the anterior cingulate, which controls processing speed and the ability to switch tasks. There was also shrinkage in the cerebellum, which controls motor function.
These results suggest that HSV-1 might be directly causing the cognitive deficits by attacking these brain regions, Schretlen says.
Though the researchers aren't sure why schizophrenia might make brains more vulnerable to a viral assault, Schretlen says the results already suggest new ways of treating the disorder. Data from other studies has shown that antiviral medications can reduce psychiatric symptoms in some patients with schizophrenia. "If we can identify schizophrenic patients with HSV-1 antibodies early on, it might be possible to reduce the risk or the extent of cognitive deficits," he adds.
Other Johns Hopkins researchers who participated in this study include Tracy D. Vannorsdall, Ph.D., Jessica M. Winicki, B.A., Takatoshi Hikida, M.D., Akira Sawa, M.D., Ph.D., Robert H. Yolken, M.D., and Nicola G. Cascella, M.D.For more information, go to:
Christen Brownlee | EurekAlert!
Organ-on-a-chip mimics heart's biomechanical properties
23.02.2017 | Vanderbilt University
Researchers identify cause of hereditary skeletal muscle disorder
22.02.2017 | Klinikum der Universität München
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News