Schizophrenia, a chronic and severe mental disorder, has devastating effects on people, causing thoughts and behaviors that appear out of touch with reality and interfering with a person's ability to function in life.
While a precise cause hasn't been pinned down, researchers have noted brain abnormalities associated with this disorder.
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A recent study by the Florey Institute for Neuroscience and Mental Health in Parkville, Australia, published in the journal Schizophrenia found genetic changes in the brain linked with schizophrenia, suggesting the condition could be a result of the human brain's evolution, Medical News Today reported.
"It's thought that schizophrenia occurs when environmental factors trigger changes in gene expression in the human brain." the study's author, Brian Dean of Swinburne University's Centre for Mental Health in Hawthorne, Australia, said, according to the report.
Environmental triggers could include such things as pregnancy complications and growing up in a dysfunctional family.
While early theories pointed to behavioral or stress-induced events as the cause of schizophrenia, more recent theories point to underlying biochemical abnormalities, Scientific American reported.
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Researchers have keyed in on the brain's neurotransmitter systems, with a variety of theories suggesting that disruptions to this function are at the root of schizophrenia.
Scientific American pointed out four theories:
Dopamine Hypothesis — This theory suggests that over activity of dopamine neurotransmission in cortical and limbic areas of the brain may cause schizophrenia.
NMDA Receptor Hypothesis — NMDA receptors play a key role in normal memory and cognition, and drugs that affect them can cause hallucinations similar to those experienced in schizophrenia, leading some to believe that dysfunctional NMDA receptors may be behind the condition.
Single-carbon Hypothesis — The single-carbon folate pathway supports biochemical reactions in the brain, , including the synthesis of methionine, which studies have shown to be impaired in people with schizophrenia.
Membrane Hypothesis — This theory links disturbances in the membranes of nerve cells with schizophrenia.
A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2000 found that genetic defects linked to schizophrenia may be related to third ventricular enlargement and cerebral volume decrease.
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This article is for information only and is not intended as medical advice. Talk with your doctor about your specific health and medical needs.
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