Over a decade ago, it was found that a certain genetic abnormality had about a thirty percent chance of predicting the development of schizophrenia in humans. Since this discovery, researchers have been working on further studies surrounding the mutation and its relationship to one of psychology’s least-understood health concerns. Recently, a breakthrough has developed in this line of study, produced by the same doctor credited with the original discovery and a team of researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center.
The findings show that the mutation affects communication between the hippocampus and the pre-frontal cortex, key areas of the brain responsible for, among other things, enabling the working memory to function. The research was carried out with mice, some of which were engineered to exhibit the genetic mutation identified in the earlier study. The mice were then put through a maze that required them to remember the direction from which they had come in order to successfully exit. Those mice with the mutation were found to have significantly hampered or altogether absent communication between the hippocampus and the pre-frontal cortex.
Researchers have noted that investigations of individual mice found that the more disrupted the communication between these brain regions (as measured by recordings of neural activity), the poorer the performance, a correlation that clearly demonstrates a relationship. A difficulty in using or lack of ability to use the working memory in humans is a trait commonly associated with the manifestation of schizophrenia, and can play a major role in an individual’s ability to enjoy life within the context of society. The work may help researchers and clinical practitioners better understand the causes of schizophrenia, and earlier detection may also prove possible as a result.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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