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Cold sore virus may contribute to cognitive and brain abnormalities in schizophrenia
Date:5/28/2010

ls in Baltimore, Md. Blood tests showed that 25 of the patients had antibodies for HSV-1 and 15 didn't. The researchers gave all of the patients tests to measure speed of coordination, organizational skills and verbal memory. The patients then underwent MRI brain scans to measure the volume of particular regions of their brains.

As in previous studies, results showed that patients with antibodies to HSV-1 performed significantly worse on the cognitive tests than patients without the antibodies. But expanding on those earlier studies, analysis of the brain scans showed that the same patients who performed poorly on the tests also had reduced brain volume in the anterior cingulate, which controls processing speed and the ability to switch tasks. There was also shrinkage in the cerebellum, which controls motor function.

These results suggest that HSV-1 might be directly causing the cognitive deficits by attacking these brain regions, Schretlen says.

Though the researchers aren't sure why schizophrenia might make brains more vulnerable to a viral assault, Schretlen says the results already suggest new ways of treating the disorder. Data from other studies has shown that antiviral medications can reduce psychiatric symptoms in some patients with schizophrenia. "If we can identify schizophrenic patients with HSV-1 antibodies early on, it might be possible to reduce the risk or the extent of cognitive deficits," he adds.


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Contact: Christen Brownlee
cbrownlee@jhmi.edu
410-955-7832
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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