Brains Of Healthy Relatives May Provide Understanding Of Schizophrenia


Examining the brains of relatives of individuals with schizophrenia may provide better insight into the disease, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University.

Researchers also believe that studying the brains of these healthy relatives could ultimately lead to better treatments for patients with schizophrenia.

During the study, a noninvasive imaging test was used to look at the neurotransmitters gamma-aminobutyric acidergic (GABA) and glutamate in both people suffering from schizophrenia and their healthy relatives.

Reduced neurotransmitter levels

Previous research has proposed that glutamate and GABA work together to regulate brain function, and low levels of either could influence the onset of the disease. According to the new study, both the relatives and schizophrenia patients possessed lower levels of glutamate, but the healthy relatives showed more normal levels of GABA.

Researchers are hoping this discovery will help them better understand why some people with normal levels of GABA do not experience schizophrenia despite a genetic predisposition for the disease.

"This finding is what's most exciting about our study," said Katharine Thakkar, lead investigator of the study. "It hints at what kinds of things have to go wrong for someone to express this vulnerability toward schizophrenia. In the future, as this imaging technique becomes more refined, it could conceivably be used to guide individual treatment recommendations.”

Source: Michigan State University