There has been a recent study conducted by the neuroscientists at MIT in association with researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Shanghai Mental Health Center that a certain pattern of brain activity may identify the development of schizophrenia. "You can consider this pattern to be a risk factor. If we use these types of brain measurements, then maybe we can predict a little bit better who will end up developing psychosis, and that may also help tailor interventions," says Guusje Collin, a visiting scientist at MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the lead author of the paper.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a type of chronic brain disorder the might involve a breakdown and inconsistency in relations between thought, emotion, and behavior. This leads to unusual behaviors and perceptions like hallucinations, delusions, trouble concentrating, and lack of motivation, aggressiveness, and difficulty expressing emotions.
Schizophrenia occurs in the adolescent years and may affect people aged between 16 – 30 years. This type of mental disorder has no definite cure so far but medications and therapies might alleviate symptoms improving quality of life.
Scientists and researchers have constantly been studying subjects to find out the reason for the development of schizophrenia and if there is an early diagnosis of the condition.
Findings of the research
It has been found out in earlier studies that before a person goes full-blown schizophrenic, he might experience milder symptoms that are characterized by a loss of touch with reality and certain behavioral changes. The person’s thought process and patterns of responding to question changes. He might think and answer randomly that has hardly a connection to the question or topic discussed.
According to the recent research that was conducted on 158 people between the ages of 13 and 34, an fMRI was used to study the brain activity involving "resting state networks." These involve those areas of the brain that connect and communicate with each other when the brain is not functioning and involved in any cognitive activity. "We were interested in looking at the intrinsic functional architecture of the brain to see if we could detect early aberrant brain connectivity or networks in individuals who are in the clinically high-risk phase of the disorder," Whitfield-Gabrieli, another visiting scientist at the McGovern Institute and a professor of psychology at Northeastern University says.
There were 23 among the scanned patients who were diagnosed to be at a higher risk of developing schizophrenia and a year later they had experienced psychotic disorder and were found to have schizophrenia. Researchers had found that an early scan of these 23 patients showed a distinctive pattern of brain activity that was clearly different from healthy patients and also those at-risk patients who had not developed psychosis.
With such early interventions where a brain activity pattern can predict a future schizophrenia, medical treatments and therapies can be administered to the at-risk patients to prevent psychiatric disorders and improve quality of life.