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Alterations in brain's white matter key to schizophrenia, UCLA study shows
Date:6/22/2009

imaging (DTI) that uses the movement of water molecules along white matter tracts to map out the brain's pathways. In the last few years, these techniques have been applied to research schizophrenia and other disorders.

The researchers studied a control group of 25 healthy individuals and 36 teens and young adults, aged 12 to 26, at very high risk for developing schizophrenia, and followed them over a two-year period. The adolescents were identified as high risk due to genetic factors (i.e., being close relatives of someone with schizophrenia), or because they showed very early clinical symptoms of the disease. All of the subjects underwent a DTI scan at the start of the trial, along with clinical and functional assessments. Follow-up assessments of clinical and functional outcome were done at different periods over the next two years.

Failing to find a normal increase in white matter integrity over time in the at-risk subjects, said Karlsgodt, "suggests there is a fundamental difference in how typically developing young people and high-risk adolescents develop during this period right before the disease would be expected to manifest. Something may go awry with the developmental process during this period that might contribute to the onset of the disorder."

The other important finding, she said, was that by looking at white matter integrity in the temporal lobe at people's first appointment, "we could predict how well they would be functioning 15 months later at work, school and home.

"This is a very exciting finding, because it means we might be closer to being able to identify people who will need more or different treatments in the future, so that we can get them the help they need."


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Contact: Mark Wheeler
mwheeler@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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