Early Brain Changes in Mental Health

Schizophrenia patients found have decreased gray matter and increased cerebrospinal fluid

(RxWiki News) The daily life of psychosis patients varies greatly from your average"Joe". Looking into the brain begins to shed light on why we are all so different.

A recent study available through the Archives of General Psychiatry investigates progressive brain changes in adolescents suffering from psychosis.

By analyzing early-onset mental illness, researchers hope to better understand the diagnosis and prognosis of several disorders. 

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Fourteen doctors participated in the study, and Celso Arango, M.D., Ph.D., of the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón in Madrid, Spain, worked as lead author.

Dr. Arango and her team explain, “Progressive loss of brain gray matter has been reported in childhood-onset schizophrenia; however, it is uncertain whether these changes are shared by pediatric patients with different psychoses.”

In order to understand the relationship between psychosis and the brain, investigators examined 61 adolescent patients and 70 healthy controls within six child and adolescent psychiatric facilities over the course of two years.

Magnetic resonance images were collected on children with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other psychosis disorders. 

The results demonstrated greater loss of brain gray matter in the frontal lobe and increased cerebrospinal fluid in the left frontal lobe in patients with schizophrenia compared to the healthy controls, though no significant differences were found for bipolar disorder patients.

According to Dr. Arango, “Greater left frontal gray matter volume loss was related to more weeks of hospitalization, whereas severity of negative symptoms correlated with cerebrospinal fluid increase in patients with schizophrenia.”

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) occupies the space between brain and skull, providing protection and support. An increase of CSF causes a rise in intracranial pressure and restricts blood perfusion, increasing the risk of brain ischemia, or a restriction in blood flow to the brain.

Increased pressure in the brain causes altered levels of consciousness and may lead to a wide variety of neurological symptoms and behavioral changes. 

Gray matter is part of the central nervous system and is known to be involved in muscle control, sensory perception, memory, emotions, and speech. 

"Some of these pathophysiologic processes seem to be markers of poorer prognosis. To develop therapeutic strategies to counteract these pathologic progressive brain changes, future studies should focus on their neurobiological underpinnings,” Arango and her team write.

Further investigations into understanding the biology and neurology of psychosis may shed light onto their roots to aid prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Review Date: 
January 4, 2012