Schizophrenia symptoms: linked to faulty ‘switch’ in brain

IMH Newsletter August 2013

Scientists from the Institute of Mental Health have shown that psychotic symptoms experienced by people with schizophrenia could be caused by a faulty ‘switch’ within the brain. In a study published in the leading journal Neuron, they have demonstrated that the severity of symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations which are typical in patients with the psychiatric disorder is caused by a disconnection between two important regions in the brain — the insula and the lateral frontal cortex. 

The breakthrough, say the academics, could form the basis for better, more targeted treatments for schizophrenia with fewer side effects. The four-year study, led by Professor Peter Liddle and Dr Lena Palaniyappan, centred on the insula region, a segregated ‘island’ buried deep within the brain, which is responsible for seamless switching between inner and outer world.

Dr Lena Palaniyappan said: “In our daily life, we constantly switch between our inner, private world and the outer, objective world. This switching action is enabled by the connections between the insula and frontal cortex. This switch process appears to be disrupted in patients with schizophrenia. This could explain why internal thoughts sometime appear as external objective reality, experienced as voices or hallucinations in this condition.”

Visit the University of Nottingham website at http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/news/pressreleases/2013/august/schizophrenia-symptoms-linked-to-faulty-switch-in-brain.aspx for more information.

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