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Chemical imbalance in the brain may lead to schizophrenia, study reveals

Chemical imbalance in the brain may lead to schizophrenia, study revealsA recent research says chemical imbalance in the brain may lead to schizophrenia.

With the help of a novel MRI, neuroscientists found higher oxidative stress levels in schizophrenia patients, when compared to healthy people and patients with bipolar disorder.

Dr.Fei Du, an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, the lead investigator of the study said, high energy requirements on cells of the brain results in increase of highly reactive oxygen species like hydrogen peroxide and free radicals.  The chemical reaction which leads to the formation of rust in metals is known as excessive oxidation, the similar reaction takes place in the case of schizophrenia. Excessive oxidation is commonly believed to be the reason behind damage in cells and inflammation. Although measuring this oxidation process in the living brain has been a challenge.

Neuroscientists at McLean Hospital estimated oxidative stress by means of a new MRI spectroscopic technique. MRI scanners are used non-invasively to calculate concentrations of two brain molecules namely, NAD+ and NADH. The output provides information on how well the brain is capable to buffer out excessive oxidants.

Schizophrenia  and NADH elevation

Du analyzed 21 schizophrenia patients, and found that 53% of increase in NADH when compared to healthy people of same age. A same degree of NADH increase was found in recently diagnosed schizophrenia, indicating that imbalance in oxidation is seen even in the starting stages of the disease. Limited NADH elevation was also noted in patients with bipolar disorder, which has some clinical and genetic relation with schizophrenia.

Among 21 patients with chronic schizophrenia, Du observed a 53% elevation in NADH compared to healthy individuals of similar age. A similar degree of NADH elevation was seen in newly diagnosed schizophrenia, suggesting that oxidation imbalance is present even in the early stages of illness. More modest NADH increases were also seen in bipolar disorder, which shares some genetic and clinical overlap with schizophrenia.

This report provides a new perception into schizophrenia and also a possible way to test the efficiency of new treatments. Du remarked that this work will offer new approaches in protecting the brain and improving the functions of the brain in schizophrenia