Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland say that MRI brain scans could help predict schizophrenia, a mental disorder that affects about 1% of people around the world. The study results were published in the BioMed Central Medicine journal.
The 10-year-long study covering 200 people, who were at a high risk of developing schizophrenia because two or more family members had already been diagnosed with the illness.
The research analyzed MRI scans of 65 of the 200 young people. 8 out of 65 persons went on to develop schizophrenia an average 2.3 years after the first scan. The scans of each of the eight revealed that they had changes in grey matter that happened before they became unwell.
The study researchers looked specifically for changes in grey matter, the brain tissue made principally of neurons that transmit messages and help to store memories. They found that the MRI scan could detect key changes in the brain's grey matter before a person develops symptoms of schizophrenia, which could help doctors in predicting the mental health disorder.
'Currently, there is no preventative treatment for schizophrenia but an accurate predictive test could help researchers to assess possibilities for prevention in the future' - the scientists said.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness characterized by disturbances in a person's thoughts, perceptions, emotions and behavior. Symptoms usually develop in men in their late teens or early 20s and in women in their 20s and 30s. In rare cases the symptoms, which include hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking, movement disorders, social withdrawal and cognitive deficits, could also appear in childhood.