Unlocking the Secrets of Schizophrenia

By Dina Al Qassar, NAMI Intern

Schizophrenia continues to confound the minds of scientists and researchers alike. Affecting 1% of the human population, the culprit behind this illness is still unknown. There has been research investigating the causes of schizophrenia, and although scientists have known that it runs in families there isn’t any evidence indicating that the causes are purely genetic. The belief is that both genetic and environmental factors play equal parts in the development of schizophrenia.

There have been speculations about the causes, including but not limited to: prenatal factors (viral infections during the pregnancy, malnourishment, stress); environment factors (emotional, physical, or sexual abuse); abnormalities in the brain structure (irregularities in the size of the prefrontal and temporal lobes), neurotransmitter imbalances (high levels of dopamine and low levels of serotonin), etc… yet there aren’t any definite links between a single factor and the disease.

Due to the unique nature of schizophrenia it is very hard to find the causes of the illness. Recently however, a significant pattern emerged between schizophrenia and inheritance that was revealed by looking at the way schizophrenia is more prevalent in some families; this spurred the genetic investigation of the matter.

Schizophrenia - schizophrénie

Schizophrenia – schizophrénie (Photo credit: http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca)

According to Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in his blog post from Jan. 28, “Exploring the Complex Genetics of Schizophrenia,” new developments in DNA sequences technology have allowed scientists to look at the “actual DNA sequence of the protein-coding region of the entire genome for thousands of individuals with schizophrenia.” This would then give further insight into the nature of the genetic variations and if there is a direct relationship between these genetic mutations and the illness.

For the rest of this article CLICK HERE to visit the NAMI National Site.

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