Despite many attempts to figure out its underlying mechanisms, schizophrenia remains one of the most poorly understood mental illnesses. Researchers from Columbia University's Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), and the Universite Paris Descartes found a decrease of inhibitory neurons in a lesser-explored region of the brain's memory center may be to blame for more difficult symptoms, including reduced motivation, decreased emotional capacity, and social withdrawal. Scientists have long suspected the illness originates somewhere in the brain's hippocampus, resulting in extensive examination of nearly every region of that brain structure. One exception, they found, was a miniscule area called CA2.
"Smaller and less well-defined that other parts of the hippocampus, CA2 was like a small island that was depicted on old maps but remained unexplored," said Dr. Vivien Chevaleyr. This area in hippocampus is associated with vasopressin, a hormone associated with sexual bonding, motivation, and other important social behaviors; many of which become impaired after schizophrenia surfaces.
The researchers at CUMC after several behavioral and electrophysiological experiments on a mouse model of schizophrenia observed a significant increase of inhibitory CA2 neurons compared to normal, healthy mice — a very similar observation to those seen in post-mortem examinations of humans with schizophrenia
The discovery potentially opens up a new avenue for schizophrenia research that could lead to earlier diagnosis for patients.
Source: medical daily