MRI may illuminate new avenues for schizophrenia treatment

Using MRI with covariance analysis, researchers have revealed tissue increases over time in the brains of patients with schizophrenia. The increases suggest these brains may be compensating for lost capacity and perhaps trying to protect themselves against further damage.

The research team, made up of investigators from the U.K., China and Canada, published their findings online May 26 in Psychological Medicine.

Their report describes how they followed 98 patients with schizophrenia—which has been associated with reduction in overall brain-tissue volume—and compared them to 83 patients without the illness.  

Analyzing the MR images of the brain tissue increases, they found cortical thickness variations in different stages of schizophrenia. These variations were accompanied by subtle cerebral reorganization “reflecting the inherent plasticity” of the brain that “may occur concomitantly with processes contributing to tissue reduction in adult patients with schizophrenia,” they write in their conclusions.

This effect had not been seen before now, according to a news brief from the Lawson Health Research Institute in Ontario, one of the partnering institutions in the project.

“Our results highlight that, despite the severity of tissue damage, the brain of a patient with schizophrenia is constantly attempting to reorganize itself, possibly to rescue itself or limit the damage,” says Lena Palaniyappan, PhD.

Jeffrey Reiss, MD, a Lawson psychiatrist, says the findings are important “not only because of their novelty and the rigor of the study, but because they point the way to the development of targeted treatments that potentially could better address some of the core pathology in schizophrenia.”