The onset of schizophrenia can drastically change a person’s life and to try and better treat the disease, researchers everywhere are trying to develop easier ways to predict the occurrence.
According to a Science Daily release, the prior existence of schizophrenia in the family is not enough to determine whether or not it will affect one individual. Prof. Ina Weiner of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Psychology noted that the developmental disorder can actually be triggered in the womb by infection, even though it usually manifests in early adulthood.
“Pharmacological treatments for schizophrenia remain unsatisfactory, so clinicians and researchers like myself have started to dig in another direction,” said Prof. Weiner in Science Daily. “The big question asked in recent years is if schizophrenia can be prevented.”
Prof. Weiner and colleagues, Dr. Yael Piontkewiz and Dr. Yaniv Assaf, set out to discover biological cues that could help trace the progression of the disease before symptoms were to emerge.
“We wondered if we could use neuro-imaging to track any early-onset changes in the brains of laboratory animals,” Prof. Weiner said. “If so, could these changes and their accompanying schizophrenia-like symptoms be prevented if caught early enough?”
In the study, Prof. Weiner and colleagues studied rats given a viral mimic known to induce schizophrenia-like behavior. By looking at the scans of the brain and behavior and the resulting enlarged brains, the researchers determined that those at high risk for schizophrenia could be given drugs to treat their brains. When the drugs were given, the rats’ brains retained a healthy size.
“Clinicians have suspected that these drugs can be used to prevent the onset of schizophrenia, but this is the first demonstration that such a treatment can arrest the development of brain deterioration,” says Prof. Weiner.