There are some diagnoses that are both shocking and chronic, including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and schizophrenia. Once told that one of these conditions has developed, patients are aware that their symptoms cannot be cured — only managed.
Now, a team of scientists have discovered that schizophrenia may be reversible, as the human brain has the ability to reorganize. For the first time ever, brain imaging scans have uncovered the fact, that our brains may be able to reverse the effect of this complex mental disorder.
Study Finds — Our Brains May Be Able to Reverse the Effects of Schizophrenia
When you think of schizophrenia, what comes to mind? Hallucinations? Delusions? Erratic behaviour? Although these are symptoms of this mental disorder, it’s so much more complex than that — individuals and their family members suffer, looking for answers on how they can better their situation.
Like a number of other degenerative conditions, schizophrenia is generally associated with a reduction in brain tissue volume. With that being said, a new study has reported some incredible findings, which may not only benefit schizophrenia patients, but also individuals with other neurodegenerative disorders.
This study, published in Psychology Medicine, followed 98 schizophrenia patients, comparing them to 83 individuals without this disorder. Using MRI techniques, researchers were able to scan and record the amount of brain tissue present. What they found, was that subtle and distributed increases occurred.
Meaning, although a patient with schizophrenia may experience significant tissue damage, this study shows that the human brain does, in fact, try to reorganize itself. It is working to reduce damage on its own — possibly in a desperate attempt to rescue itself.
There’s the general idea that severe mental health conditions cannot be cured. For the most part, symptoms are reduced and the aim is to improve quality of life; but now, with advancing technology and research, reversing certain symptoms may be within our reach.
Next, researchers are interested in how this process takes place. By repeatedly scanning the brains of individuals with schizophrenia, they hope to unlock more clues. Based on this reorganization, they want to examine the overall effect on recovery — potentially narrowing down more effective, targeted treatment methods.
The Link Between Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s
As stated by one of the lead researchers, schizophrenia is a condition that was once viewed as a premature case of dementia, based on its degenerative and progressive nature. By developing new therapies and better understanding neuroplasticity, schizophrenia-related research, could also provide insight into Alzheimer’s.
Within modern medicine, these two conditions may appear to be totally independent of one another — but what if they’re not? Research has shown that both of these disorders affect the same areas of the brain. Once again, based on MRI scans, researchers determined that areas that direct long-term memory, intellect, and sensory information were vulnerable within Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.
Although these diseases have different origins and appear at different stages in one’s life, researchers believe that they’re somewhat linked. Perhaps genetic and environmental factors within early life, lead to lifelong consequences?
Within this one key study, published in PNAS, researchers explained that although brain decline in the elderly is nothing new, the human brain and higher levels of functioning, is what displays a record of damage with advancing years. When studied in chimpanzees, for instance, they do not share this same neural centre and are void of both Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.
It was concluded that our longer lifespans, as well as higher brain functioning within humans, may play a key role in terms of these diseases. Although there are still plenty of unknowns, one thing is for sure — we are closer than ever before, uncovering and unlocking the mysteries of the human brain.
If you or your loved one suffer from schizophrenia, please visit the Schizophrenia Society of Canada for more information and encouraging resources.
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