Scientists Reveal ‘Game-Changer’ Schizophrenia Findings

NEW YORK (AP) — Scientists pursuing the biological roots of schizophrenia have zeroed in on a potential factor — a normal brain process that gets kicked into overdrive. The finding could someday lead to ways to treat the disease or even prevent it.

The result — accomplished by analysis of genetics, autopsy brain tissue and laboratory mice — is “going to be a game-changer” in terms of understanding schizophrenia and offering routes for treatment and potential for prevention, said Bruce Cuthbert, acting deputy director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which helped fund the research.

An expert unconnected to the research said the study’s conclusion was not yet proven, but plausible.

Almost 1 percent of the general population will have schizophrenia at some point in their lives. They may hear voices or hallucinate, talk about strange ideas, and believe others are reading their minds or plotting against them.

Nobody knows what causes the disorder, so the new result offers a possible peek into a black box. The work is reported in a paper released Wednesday by the journal Nature.

The finding might pertain to “a very substantial fraction of cases, maybe most cases, even,” said senior author Steven McCarroll, of Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The result links schizophrenia risk to a problem with a normal process that happens in adolescence and early adulthood, when disease symptoms often appear. That age range is when the brain trims back the number of specialized places on brain cells where the cells signal each other, called synapses. The new work suggests a connection to schizophrenia when this process gets out of hand, deleting too many synapses.

“It’s like you have a gardener who was supposed to prune the bushes and just got overactive,” Cuthbert observed. “You end up with bushes that are pruned —> Read More