Schizophrenia is a mysterious, misunderstood mental illness without a full cure. However, researchers from the United Kingdom and China may have found a clue that could help to understand it better.
According to Science Daily, a new study that looked at MRI scans shows that while schizophrenic participants showed a reduction in brain tissue volume, subtle increases in brain matter were seen in certain areas of the brain.
The study looked at the brains of 98 patients with schizophrenia and 83 patients without and used a technique called “covariance analysis” to record the amount of brain tissue.
“Our results highlight that despite the severity of tissue damage, the brain of a patient with schizophrenia is constantly attempting to reorganize itself, possibly to rescue itself or limit the damage,” said Dr. Lena Palaniyappan, an author on the study.
The brains of schizophrenic patients were often found to contain significantly reduced gray matter (which contains the majority of the brain’s neuronal cell bodies). But the research shows that, while subtle, the process could be reversible.
The brain may be capable of fighting off some of the effects of schizophrenia on its own and could lead to more answers in the fight against the disease, maybe including treatments that utilize the brain, researchers stated.
“Brain plasticity and the development of related therapies would contribute to a new optimism in an illness that was 100 years ago described as premature dementia for its seemingly progressive deterioration,” Dr. Jeffrey Reiss, of London Health Sciences Centre, told Science Daily.
Currently treatments for schizophrenia can include a combination of antipsychotic medication and therapy and the cause of the disease is unknown. Most of these treatments reduce and help manage symptoms, but do little to reverse the condition. However, new discoveries in the field could bring hope to those with the mysterious disease or for people who know someone struggling.