Jan. 4 (UPI) — The brains of healthy people may be similar to those of people with schizophrenia, a study says.
A study of 179 people — 109 with schizophrenia and 70 without it — published Friday in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows the brain similaries in MRI scans and facial recognition tests.
The findings, which reflect participants with and without the condition, broke participants down into three distinct facial types — typical, over-activated and de-activated profiles — helping the researchers determine similarities and differences between each of them.
“We think those with over-activated networks may be ‘inefficient’ in terms of brain activity — they probably struggled more and needed to work harder to do the same task compared to the other groups,” says Dr. Hawco. “The ‘de-activating’ group seemed to show very efficient use of their brain and did better on behavioral tests of social processing as well.”
Traditional brain research uses biological measures of mental health symptoms to compare people with mental health disorders to people without them. But biomarkers can be tough to spot.
This new study shows even people with the same mental illness might have different biologic patterns.
“We know that, on average, people with schizophrenia have more social impairment than people in the general population,” said Aristotle Voineskos, a researcher in the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto and study senior author. “But we needed to take an agnostic approach and let the data tell us what the brain-behavioral profiles of our study participants looked like. It turned out that the relationship between brain function and social behavior had nothing to do with conventional diagnostic categories in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).”
The National Institutes of Health has linked schizophrenia to negative health outcomes. It says nearly 5 percent of people with schizophrenia by from suicide, and many others develop co-occurring medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.
Currently, there is no cure for schizophrenia, although several therapiesexist to deal with its symptoms. The investigators in this study want their work to push for further research to help change brain function in people with the condition.
“There is really no effective treatment to deal with these social impairments, which is why we’re really invested in figuring out the brain networks of social behaviors as targets for treatment and research,” said Anil Malhotra, Director of Research at the Zucker Hillside Hospital. “We are now positioned to test treatments to help change brain function, rather than focusing on symptoms alone, when it comes to helping people with social impairment.”