Antiepilectic drug treatments given during brain development could trigger schizophrenia-like behaviour,researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center have found.
A history of seizures during infancy leaves a person at significantly higher risk of developing schizophrenia later in life, but researchers aren't sure whether the seizures themselves or the drugs used to treat them are to blame.
Now, results of the new study suggest that antiepileptic drug (AED) treatments may trigger schizophrenia-like behaviours in its users when given during the brain's developmental period.
Animal models that received AEDs during critical periods of brain development showed an increase in such behaviours.
"We know that early-life exposure to AEDs such as Phenobarbital triggers cell death in many brain regions associated with the onset of schizophrenia," said Guillermo Palchik, a doctoral student in the department of pediatrics at GUMC.
"This study not only suggests a relationship between the drugs and schizophrenia, but it raises important questions regarding the side effects of a widely-used class of drugs.
"Phenobarbital and other AEDs are not only used as a treatment for seizures but more generally in the treatment of migraines, neuropathic pain and mood disorders, among other ailments, and can be considered drugs of abuse," Palchik added.
The research has been presented at the 39th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.