Schizophrenia Symptoms Linked to Faulty Switch in Brain

Scientists at The University of Nottingham in the UK have shown that psychotic symptoms experienced by people with schizophrenia could be caused by a faulty ‘switch’ within the brain. In a study published in an open-access article in the August 21, 2013 issue of Neuron, the researchers have demonstrated that the severity of symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, which are typical in patients with the psychiatric disorder, is caused by a disconnection between two important regions in the brain — the insula and the lateral frontal cortex. This discovery, say the academics, could form the basis for better, more targeted treatments for schizophrenia with fewer side effects. The four-year study, led by Professor Peter Liddle and Dr. Lena Palaniyappan in the University’s Division of Psychiatry and based in the Institute of Mental Health, centered on the insula region, a segregated ‘island’ buried deep within the brain, which is responsible for seamless switching between inner and outer world. Dr. Palaniyappan, a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, said: “In our daily life, we constantly switch between our inner, private world and the outer, objective world. This switching action is enabled by the connections between the insula and frontal cortex. This switching process appears to be disrupted in patients with schizophrenia. This could explain why internal thoughts sometime appear as external objective reality, experienced as voices or hallucinations in this condition. This could also explain the difficulties in ‘internalizing’ external material pleasures (e.g., enjoying a musical tune or social events) that result in emotional blunting in patients with psychosis.
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