Through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), researchers from the United Kingdom and China proved that the brains of patients suffering from schizophrenia try to repair themselves.

The team reviewed a total of 181 patients, 98 of which were suffering from the disease. The amount of brain tissue was closely monitored through analysis of covariance, a procedure that can measure the dependency of factors when exposed to a set of circumstances or treatments.

Schizofrenia brain tries to repair itself
Through an MRI imaging scientists noticed that the brains of patients suffering from schizophrenia become more “normal” over time. CreditL

Schizophrenic’s brain in images

MRI joined with analysis of covariance, allowed the research team to note subtle but significant increases in brain tissue, something that has not been noticed in affected patients’ brains up to this point.

Schizophrenia is a degenerative disease, where the damage grows as time goes on, making it almost impossible to achieve a reversal in the brain’s worsening condition. But this study shows that the brain seems to work towards recovering from the disease, providing leads to the idea of reversing the internal damage the brain has suffered, including the severe reduction of cognitive and functional detriment that the brain has undergone due to schizophrenia.

Researchers argue that the findings may pave the way towards developing treatments that are set to improve the pathology related to schizophrenia, as degenerative diseases can be treated in one way or another. Schizophrenia is being understood now more than ever. The team now expects to investigate exactly how the recovery process develops on patients within the early stages of schizophrenia.

Participants showed an increased amount of gray matter the longer they had the degenerative condition. The imaging also showed that, no matter how damaged the brain is due to schizophrenia, it always tries to repair itself and to limit the damages caused by the disease. The research showed how the brain is capable of undergoing self-repairs, which will pave the way towards the development of similarly induced techniques.

Understanding schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a disease that has a very broad array of symptoms. Each case is different, and the symptoms place a significant burden on the patient’s quality of life. How patients react to treatment is also very specific depending on each case.

There are two major types of symptoms native to schizophrenia: positive and negative. Positive symptoms are those where the patient has an added neurological ailment or experience, such as being delusional, suspicious, hallucinating and unnatural beliefs. Negative symptoms are those associated with a detriment of common neurological functions, such as when the patient loses motor skills or social-driven behaviors.

The most common ways to treat schizophrenia have to do with dealing with each specific set of symptoms. Negative symptoms are more complicated, while positive symptoms can be treated thanks to the use of anti-psychotic drugs.

One of the main problems with schizophrenia’s negative symptoms is that they are hard to document, but with each passing year, physicians have a deeper understanding of the disease and its underlying structure. This study involving MRI has provided an important factor to the table by proving that the brain always tries to renew itself, whether the patient is suffering from one set of symptoms or the other. In the study, the participants’ schizophrenia was not taken into account from an analytic point of view, but perhaps different types of schizophrenia are related to different brain restoration processes.

Not so easy to treat

Schizophrenia can be a very complicated disease, in particular for those that keep in contact with the patient. The most frequent symptom is a deficit in bodily gestures, where speech and facial expressions may appear mechanical and lacking of emotion. The patient seems to be unable to show any feelings or understanding of what’s going on around him or her. There is usually a significant decrease in the patient’s ability to experience pleasure and caring for anyone or anything.

Afflicted patients often have an overall lack of desire of task-completion. There is little to no interest in maintaining relationships, incurring in physical activity and following set schedules or lists of tasks.

Some of the treatments for schizophrenia focus on developing and strengthening the patient’s ability to develop bonds with other people and to develop cognitively and motor skills. Therapy that involves physical activity is usually much more efficient, as muscle memory forces the brain to establish links related to how a particular movement feels on the body.

But one of the major weaknesses of the current methods to treat schizophrenia is the occurrence of side effects. Anti-psychotic drugs, although able to reduce the harmful symptoms that occur on the psychotic phase of schizophrenia, force upon the patient a series of side effects that are never beneficial in other that alleviating the degenerative disease’s symptoms.

If the brain is indeed able to recover while it’s undergoing schizophrenia, then it is a matter of time until the right amount of research allows for the scientific community to finally find a cure for schizophrenia.

Most natural processes of the human organism can be replicated through medical or chemical procedures. Brain regeneration probably follows that same rule. Once researchers have been able to learn exactly how is the brain able to repair itself, we may be one step closer towards eradicating a very painful and common disease as it is the case of schizophrenia.

Source: Lawson Health Research Institute