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Brain Scans Could Help Spot Schizophrenia Earlier

Imaging technology might advance treatment of psychotic disorders, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Scanning technology has helped researchers pinpoint the part of the brain that appears to be where psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia begin, a new study says.

The research could help doctors diagnose these types of disorders in their early stages and help scientists develop more effective drugs, according to the report in the Sept. 7 issue of the Archives of Psychiatry.

In the study, researchers at Columbia University in New York City scanned the brains of 18 people at high risk for psychosis, using a novel high-resolution application of functional MRI technology, an imaging method that tracks which parts of the brain are most active.

Seventy percent of the participants who went on to develop disorders such as schizophrenia had very high activity in a region of the hippocampus known as the CA1 subfield, the study authors found.

"Right now, the odds of knowing who will go on to develop schizophrenia from [early indications] is only a little better than a coin toss," first author Dr. Scott A. Schobel, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, said in a news release. "We're hoping that applying this imaging technique can enhance our knowledge of who might go on to develop schizophrenia and related disorders, since early diagnosis and early intervention are so important."

More information

To learn more about schizophrenia, see the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Sept. 7, 2009

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