Estrogen may help protect women from schizophrenia, a Tel Aviv University study suggests.
Published in the journal Psychopharmacology, Prof. Ina Weiner of Tel Aviv University's Department of Psychology and her doctoral student Michal Arad have reported that restoring normal levels of estrogen may work as a protective agent in menopausal women vulnerable to schizophrenia.
"We've known for some time that when the level of estrogen is low, vulnerability to psychotic symptoms increases and anti-psychotic drugs are less likely to work. Now, our pre-clinical findings show why this might be happening," says Prof. Weiner.
In their study, Weiner and Arad removed the ovaries of female rats to induce menopause-like low levels of estrogen and showed that this led to schizophrenia-like behavior.
he researchers then tried to eliminate this abnormal behavior with an estrogen replacement treatment or with the antipsychotic drug haloperidol. Estrogen replacement therapy effectively alleviated schizophrenia-like behavior but haloperidol had no effect on its own. Haloperidol regained its effect in these rats when supplemented by estrogen.
"When the level of estrogen was low, we could see psychotic-like behavior in the animals. Moreover, the sensitivity to psychosis-inducing drugs went up, while the sensitivity to anti-psychotic drugs went down," Prof. Weiner says. "This is exactly what we observe in women with low estrogen levels," she says. "But we also found that estrogen, all by itself, combats psychosis in both male and female rats."