It is impossible to predict the onset of schizophrenic psychosis. If factors linked to a risk of psychosis can be identified, however, these may yield significant insights into its underlying mechanisms. Basel-based scientists have now established a link between particular genes and the size of important brain structures in individuals with an elevated risk of psychosis. The results of the study appear in the latest edition of the scientific journal Translational Psychiatry.
Schizophrenic psychoses are a frequently occurring group of psychiatric disorders caused by a combination of biological, social and environmental factors. These disorders are associated with changes to the brain structure: for example, the hippocampus in the temporal lobe is usually smaller in affected individuals than in healthy ones. It is not yet known whether these changes to the brain structure are a result of the disorders and their accompanying medications, or whether they are already present before the onset of symptoms.
Together with a research group from the University of Basel, Fabienne Harrisberger and Stefan Borgwardt examined the brain structures of individuals exhibiting an elevated risk of psychosis, and those of individuals experiencing the onset of psychotic symptoms for the first time.
Initially, scientists from the Adult Psychiatric Clinic of the University Psychiatric Clinics (UPK) and the Transfaculty Research Platform Molecular and Cognitive Neurosciences (MCN) observed no appreciable difference between the hippocampi of individuals at high risk and those of patients.
Next, together with scientists from the Transfaculty Research Platform, they investigated whether any known schizophrenia risk genes are associated with the hippocampus. This appears to be the case: the greater the number of risk genes a person possessed, the smaller the volume of their hippocampus – regardless of whether they were a high-risk study participant or a patient. This means that a group of risk genes is connected with a reduction in the size of a critical region of the brain before the disorder manifests itself.
Potential for differentiated therapy
This result is significant for the understanding of neurobiological factors contributing to schizophrenia. It is well-known that none of the wider risk factors (e.g. genes, environment, unfavorable social situation) can be used to predict the onset of psychosis in a specific individual. However, the discovery may be of use for the treatment of schizophrenia.
“It is quite possible that individuals with smaller hippocampi will react differently to therapy compared to those with normally developed hippocampi,” explains Prof. Stefan Borgwardt of the Neuropsychiatry and Brain Imaging Unit. Further studies to ascertain the therapeutic potential of this research are planned.
Fabienne Harrisberger, Renata Smieskova, Christian Vogler, Tobias Egli, André Schmidt, Claudia Lenz, Andor E Simon, Anita Riecher-Rössler, Andreas Papassotiropoulos, Stefan Borgwardt
Impact of polygenic schizophrenia-related risk and hippocampal volumes on the onset of psychosis
Translational Psychiatry (2016), doi: 10.1038/TP.2016.143
Prof. Dr. Stefan Borgwardt, University of Basel, Adult Psychiatric Clinic of the University Psychiatric Clinics (UPK), tel. +41 61 325 81 87, email: email@example.com
Prof. Dr. Andreas Papassotiropoulos, University of Basel, Transfaculty Research Platform Molecular and Cognitive Neurosciences, tel. +41 61 267 05 99, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Olivia Poisson | Universität Basel
A new molecular player involved in T cell activation
07.12.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology
News About a Plant Hormone
07.12.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.
Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...
New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals
Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.
Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.
Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...
Scientists from the Theory Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) in Hamburg have shown through theoretical calculations and computer simulations that the force between electrons and lattice distortions in an atomically thin two-dimensional superconductor can be controlled with virtual photons. This could aid the development of new superconductors for energy-saving devices and many other technical applications.
The vacuum is not empty. It may sound like magic to laypeople but it has occupied physicists since the birth of quantum mechanics.
06.12.2018 | Event News
03.12.2018 | Event News
28.11.2018 | Event News
07.12.2018 | Life Sciences
07.12.2018 | Materials Sciences
07.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy