Providing fresh insight into the treatment of people with schizophrenia, researchers have identified structural brain abnormalities in such patients.
Scientists analyzed Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of the brain of 2,028 schizophrenia patients and 2,540 healthy people. They were all assessed with standardized methods at 15 centers worldwide.
"This is the largest structural brain meta-analysis to date in schizophrenia and, specifically, it is not a meta-analysis pulled only from the literature," said co-author Jessica Turner, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Georgia State University.
"We identified brain regions that differentiated patients from controls and ranked them according to their effect sizes," Turner said.
The study was the outcome of the Enhancing Neuroimaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) project, from the Schizophrenia Working Group.
The findings, published in Molecular Psychiatry
, help further the understanding of the mental disorder. The team found that individuals with schizophrenia have smaller volume in the hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, nucleus accumbens and intracranial space than controls, and larger palladium and ventricle volumes.
The study validates collaborative data analyses can be used across brain phenotypes and disorders, and encourages analysis and data-sharing efforts to further understanding of severe mental illness.
The next step in this research is to compare the effects across disorders, to identify which brain region is the most affected in which disorder, and to determine the effects of age, medication, environment and symptom profiles across these disorders.
"There's the increased possibility, not just because of the massive datasets, but also because of the collaborative brain power being applied here from around the world, that we will find something real and reliable that will change how we think about these disorders and what we can do about them," Turner said.