Schizophrenia, a severe mental disorder affecting approximately 1 in 100 people around the world, is notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat, in large part because it manifests differently in different people. The results of a new study, first published online on October 17, 2015 in an open-access article in Molecular Neuropsychiatry, may help explain why. The article is titled “Neural Correlates of Schizophrenia Negative Symptoms: Distinct Subtypes Impact Dissociable Brain Circuits.” Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, together with colleagues at multiple major institutions, have created a map that shows how specific schizophrenia symptoms are linked to distinct brain circuits. The findings add to a growing body of evidence that schizophrenia is not a single disease but a complex constellation of neural circuit problems. The study also reinforces the potential value of brain scans for identifying and understanding schizophrenia in individual patients, for finding promising new therapeutic approaches, and for helping clinicians track a patient's progress during therapy. "For a long time, we've thought of brain imaging studies as mainly a way to corroborate or confirm aspects of brain function and pathology that we had already identified from studying a patient's behavior," said Aysenil Belger, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at UNC and the study's senior author. "This approach, where we use brain imaging to dissect the specific neural pathways of complex syndromes, is very novel and important. The imaging can help us distinguish between the different brain networks that contribute to distinct sub-symptoms. These distinctions are not recognizable from behavioral observations alone." Dr.
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