Monday, July 02, 2012

Is Schizophrenia Really a Brain Disease? - New Research

, over at Brain Blogger, posted a good article on schizophrenia as a brain disease. He argues that, despite what you read, we really have very little evidence that schizophrenia is the result of a diseased. It's a timely argument - last week an innovative study was released suggesting that schizophrenia may be an immune disorder.

First, the beginning of Williams's paper:

Is Schizophrenia Really a Brain Disease?

Ring of fire
In spite of over a hundred years of research and many billions of dollars spent, we still have no clear evidence that schizophrenia and other related psychotic disorders are the result of a diseased brain. Considering the famous PET scan and MRI scan images of “schizophrenic” brains and the regular press releases of the latest discoveries of one particular abnormal brain feature or another, this statement is likely to come as a surprise to some, and disregarded as absurdity by others. And yet, anyone who takes a close look at the actual research will simply not be able to honestly say otherwise. And not only does the brain disease hypothesis remain unsubstantiated, it has been directly countered by very well established findings within the recovery research, it has demonstrated itself to be particularly harmful to those so diagnosed (often leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy), and is highly profitable to the pharmaceutical and psychiatric industries (which likely plays a major role in why it has remained so deeply entrenched in society for so many years, in spite of our inability to validate it).

Deconstructing the Myths of Madness
The claim I am making here clearly runs counter to the mainstream understanding of schizophrenia, but we find that it’s a relatively straightforward task to back up this claim. We simply need to take the time to extract the actual research findings from the unsubstantiated assumptions and propaganda that are so often used to back up the brain disease hypothesis. I’ll go through the largest of these here:

Hypothesis #1: Schizophrenia is caused by a biochemical imbalance within the brain
Hypothesis #2: Schizophrenia is caused by anomalous brain structures
Hypothesis #3: Schizophrenia is a Genetic Disorder 

Read the whole article. 

We can add to that list a new hypothesis - Schizophrenia may be an immune disorder, not a brain disorder.

As reported at Psych Central:

Schizophrenia May be Immune, not Brain, Disorder

By Traci Pedersen Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on June 30, 2012 
Schizophrenia May be Immune, not Brain, Disorder 

Chinese scientists have shed more light on the theory that schizophrenia may be associated with a malfunctioning immune system.

Traditionally, schizophrenia’s cause has been considered to be a dysfunctioning brain. However, a growing body of evidence points to the immune system as a major culprit.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a broad range of unusual behaviors that cause profound disruption in the lives of people suffering from the condition, as well as in the lives of the people around them. Schizophrenia most often includes hallucinations and/or delusions, which reflect distortions in the perception and interpretation of reality.

Schizophrenia strikes without regard to gender, race, social class or culture. While thought to be one of the more purely biochemically-based disorders, research has yet to identify its biological or genetic origins.

Lin He and Chunling Wan from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and their colleagues, identified over 1300 proteins in the blood and then compared the blood of patients with schizophrenia to the blood of healthy individuals.

Overall, 27 proteins were different in the schizophrenic patients. All of these proteins were involved in the complement system.

The complement system consists of blood proteins that are part of signaling pathways. Each molecule activates the next, ‘complementing’ — or enhancing — the body’s immune response.

There are three main signaling pathways, which are activated in various ways and include different molecules.

The team demonstrated that one of the three, the alternative pathway, is suppressed in patients with schizophrenia.

Yang Li, a member of the team, said that ‘further statistical and bioinformatics analysis indicated that a malfunction of the complement system may be involved in schizophrenia.”

Li is cautious about the work’s impact.

“We can’t determine whether the alteration of complement pathways is a cause or effect of schizophrenia. The role of complement proteins in the development of the central nervous system also needs further exploration. That’s our future research work,” he said.

Source:  Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Post a Comment