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Siblings of schizophrenia patients display subtle shape abnormalities in brain
Date:2/19/2008

>The thalamus relays information from every sensory system but smell to the cortex, and it connects to diverse structures throughout the brain. The walnut-sized thalamus is made up of several distinct sub-regions, and the researchers found that compared to control subjects, the front and back ends of the thalamus were deformed inward in those with schizophrenia. The same deformations were present, but less pronounced, in the siblings of schizophrenia patients.

About 1 percent of the general population suffers from schizophrenia. Even after the initial symptoms of psychosis are treated with medication and psychotherapy, patients can relapse. And with each relapse, the patient's condition can get worse. Even the best possible outcome no future relapses of psychotic symptoms still requires patients to take antipsychotic medications for the rest of their lives.

"Early diagnosis and intervention with the most effective antipsychotic medications and psychotherapies may offer the best hope for patients with schizophrenia and their families." says co-investigator John G. Csernansky, M.D., the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobiology at the School of Medicine and director of the Conte Center. "This type of brain-structure analysis eventually may make it possible to start treatment for schizophrenia more quickly, perhaps even before full-blown psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, occur."

Harms and Csernansky say it's possible that shape changes in the thalamus may represent a biological marker for schizophrenia, called an endophenotype, but they can't be sure until these structural changes can be linked to the symptoms of the illness. Some of those studies are underway now. The current study was published in the Dec. 12 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.


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Contact: Jim Dryden
jdryden@wustl.edu
314-286-0110
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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