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Stuck in neutral: Brain defect traps schizophrenics in twilight zone
Date:8/16/2014

ing tasks involving snack foods. This technique relies on the fact that cerebral blood flow and neuronal activity are coupled.

When an area of the brain is in use, bloodflow to that region increases, thereby indicating neural activity. This neural activity can be presented graphically by colour-coding the strength of activation across the brain or in specific brain regions. The technique can localise neural activity to within millimetres.

Functional MRI results revealed the following:

  • schizophrenic subjects had normal neural activity in the brain region responsible for decision-making (prefrontal cortex)
  • among schizophrenic subjects, brain regions responsible, in part, for controlling actions and choice (the caudate) had far lower neural activity than in healthy subjects
  • lower neural activity in the caudate regions was correlated with the difficulty that schizophrenic subjects' had applying their food preferences to obtain future snack foods.

"Pathology in the caudate and associated brain regions may prevent schizophrenic subjects from properly evaluating their desires then transmitting that information to guide their behavior," says Dr Morris.

"This means that desires and goals are intact in people with schizophrenia, however they have difficulty choosing the right course of action to achieve those goals.

"This failure to integrate desire with action means people with schizophrenia are stuck in limbo, wanting a normal life but unable to take the necessary steps to achieve it."

Schizophrenia affects one per cent of people worldwide, including in Australia. However so-called "poor motivation" in schizophrenia is a major economic concern because it is not treated by current medicines, and often means patients fail to finish their education or hold a full-time job.


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Contact: Dan Gaffney
daniel.gaffney@sydney.edu.au
61-481-004-782
University of Sydney
Source:Eurekalert

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