Schizophrenia Changes Brain Structure: A Review Of Studies Of Individuals With Schizophrenia Never Treated With Antipsychotic Medications
A review of 56 studies of individuals with schizophrenia who had never been treated with antipsychotic medications indicates significant abnormalities in brain structure and function. Neurological and neuropsychological measures show the most consistent and largest group differences between those affected and normal controls. Measures of structural differences and cerebral metabolic function are significant but less impressive. Electrophysiological differences also are found, but most such studies are older and have methodological problems. The brain abnormalities implicate a variety of interrelated brain regions, primarily the medial temporal, prefrontal, thalamic, and basal ganglia areas. It is concluded that schizophrenia is a brain disease in the same sense that Parkinsons disease and multiple sclerosis are, and that the brain abnormalities in schizophrenia are inherent in the disease process and not medication-related. The challenge for the future is to use the new molecular techniques to study these brain areas and elevate our understanding of schizophrenias etiology to the next level.
Healthy Brains Equal Healthy Lives
Here at StoneRidge Centers, we believe that healthy brains help us live thriving, healthy lives. Our comprehensive treatment plans can help restore your brain to health. Let us help you get there. Contact us today if youre ready to overcome brain fog and live a healthy, happy, thriving, and purpose-filled life.
Onset Of Depression More Complex Than A Brain Chemical Imbalance
It’s often said that depression results from a chemical imbalance, but that figure of speech doesn’t capture how complex the disease is. Research suggests that depression doesn’t spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, there are many possible causes of depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression.
To be sure, chemicals are involved in this process, but it is not a simple matter of one chemical being too low and another too high. Rather, many chemicals are involved, working both inside and outside nerve cells. There are millions, even billions, of chemical reactions that make up the dynamic system that is responsible for your mood, perceptions, and how you experience life.
With this level of complexity, you can see how two people might have similar symptoms of depression, but the problem on the inside, and therefore what treatments will work best, may be entirely different.
What follows is an overview of the current understanding of the major factors believed to play a role in the causes of depression.
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- Different types of drugs affect your body in different ways.
- They can have short-term and long-term effects, which can be both physical and psychological.
- You might think drugs wont become a problem because you are only a casual user.
- Drug use can quickly start to affect your health and other aspects of your life.
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What Is Mental Illness
Before we can examine the ways that mental illness impacts our brains, its important to define what exactly mental illness really is. While different organizations use different terms, mental health professionals and researchers generally agree on a standardized definition of mental illness as a disruptive mental health condition that can also be diagnosed and treated.
The American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior that impact a persons ability to live their life, whether thats maintaining personal relationships, managing their work or school responsibilities, or engaging in avoiding harmful behavior.
According to the APA, one key distinction of mental illness is that the term refers to mental health challenges that are diagnosable, that is, conditions that can be defined and understood by mental health professionals. This also means that if mental illness can be diagnosed, it can also be treated. As the APA notes, mental illness is a medical condition, just like heart disease or diabetes that has standard protocols for treatment and care.
What do all these definitions have in common? A few key features to remember about mental illness are:
- Mental illnesses affect the way we think, act, and feel.
- Mental illnesses can be diagnosed.
- Mental illnesses can be treated.
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Which Chemicals Are Involved With Brain Chemistry And Mental Health
Happiness, sadness, excitement, euphoria, and even fear are emotions that are triggered and maintained by chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the brains way of communicating with the bodys nerve cells. When there isnt enough or there is too much of one kind of neurotransmitter present, it can lead to what are called bad nerves.
The chief neurotransmitters produced by the brain are:
The Role Of The Drug Companies
Lastly, Dr. Charney believes that Blaming the Brain is grossly unfair by damning the pharmaceutical industry. I dont believe that the pharmaceutical industry is an evil empire, and I am well aware of its important contributions. The prot motive, however, is not a secondary concern for pharmaceutical companies any more than it is for other companies. The industrys focus on health care does not preclude unethical behavior. Pharmaceutical companies have paid multimillion dollar nes for price xing promoting non-approved uses of drugs applying pressure to suppress, discredit, delay, or modify reports unfavorable to their products and for withholding information about adverse effects of drugs.
In the United States alone, pharmaceutical companies spend $12.3 billion dollars promoting drugs and more money lobbying legislators than any other industry.
Dr. Charney would dismiss all of this inuence by noting that: as a long-time consultant to major drug companies, I am not aware of a single instance in which a company selected a site based on whether or not the site was favorably disposed to the companysproduct. It is gratifying that Dr. Charney has had only good experiences, but I doubt many will be completely reassured.
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Brains Genes And Chemical Imbalances How Explanations Of Mental Illness Affect Stigma
Depression, schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions are increasingly linked to abnormalities in the brain and in our genes. Many professionals believe these developments hold the key to better treatments and their enthusiasm has spread. The public now endorses biogenetic explanations for mental health problems much more than in previous decades.
One possible side effect of these developments is a reduction in stigma. If the cause of psychiatric misery is in our brain chemistry or our DNA, then the miserable cannot be blamed for their symptoms. Advocates argue that stigma will diminish if we come to see mental health problems as biologically caused diseases, no different from diabetes or cancer.
This is an appealingly optimistic view, linking scientific advance to social progress. Unfortunately, it may also be wrong. Many writers have argued that seeing mental health problems as biogenetically caused diseases increases stigma. Believing that a person has a deep-seated biological defect may lead us to see them as unpredictable, incurable and categorically different from the rest of us.
Attributing mental illness to genetics and biology is a double-edged sword. martinak15/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND
Reducing Stress And Anxiety
While upbeat music can make your feel more energetic and improve your mood, music with a slower tempo can help you relax and destress. Music can have a direct effect on your bodys production of stress hormones such as and adrenaline. Soothing music can also help to slow your heartbeat and lower your blood pressure and so relieve stress and anxiety.
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Other Factors Linked To Mental Illness
While mental illness can be linked to changes in the brains functioning and chemistry, there are other underlying concerns that can make individuals more likely to struggle with mental health challenges.
These concerns include our genetic profile or the traits we inherit from our parents and other family members. Scientists believe that individuals whose family members had schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder , for example, may be at a higher risk to develop those conditions themselves.
Other factors that influence our mental health are physical injuries, such as damage to the head or brain, and the environment in which we live, including exposure to violence, pollution, limited or unhealthy food, lead-based paint, cigarette smoke, poverty, crime, and traumatic events.
While we may not have control over our genetic makeup or the environment in which we grow up, we can take more proactive steps as we grow older to maintain our mental health. If we know that mental illness runs in our family, for example, we can be vigilant about watching for common signs and symptoms, as well as working closely with a doctor, therapist, or counselor to guide us on proper treatment. And if we grew up in a difficult environment, we can seek out professional help and guidance as we get older to help overcome that childhood trauma.
Mental Disorders Are Disorders Of The Brain
- European College of Neuropsychopharmacology
- Mental disorders such as anxiety and depressive disorders are disorders of the brain and involve complex patterns of disturbances of cognition , affect and emotion , somatic functioning and behaviour. These patterns and disturbances are all associated with disturbances in the transmitter systems of the brain and the central nervous system.
Depression, anxiety disorders such as panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorders, alcohol and drug dependence, dementia and Parkinson’s disease are just a few examples of “disorders of the brain.”
“The size, the burden and cost of brain disorders in the EU is immense, and has so far been underestimated,” as Prof. Dr. Hans Ulrich Wittchen emphasized at the Official Press Conference to the 20th ECNP Congress for Neuropsychopharmacology in Vienna .
Increasing Lifetime Risk — Unmet Needs
Mental disorders such as anxiety and depressive disorders are disorders of the brain and involve complex patterns of disturbances of cognition , affect and emotion , somatic functioning and behaviour. These patterns and disturbances are all associated with disturbances in the transmitter systems of the brain and the central nervous system. What is special about most mental disorders is that they predominantly manifest early in life, before the age of 20. They are also associated across the life span with a high risk of developing complications and other — so called comorbid — disorders.
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What Is Brain Fog And How Does It Relate To Mental Illness
Experiencing brain fog can make you feel like youre lost in a maze. You might feel confused, alone, frustrated, disoriented, bewildered, unclear, and adrift. Brain fog can also affect your emotional well-being. Being unable to think clearly may make you feel powerless, irritable, and downcast. Constantly feeling this way can put a damper on your mental health. Having a mental illness can trigger brain fog, as can other conditions. Understanding brain fog, its causes, and how it relates to mental illness can help you better understand the relationship between brain health, mental capacity, and emotional well-being.
Leading The Way Inside The Human Brain
UCSFs neurology and neuroscience departments consistently are among the best in the nation.
- Research: The Department of Neurology is the countrys top program in receiving highly competitive federal grants – $60.3 million from the National Institutes of Health in 2013, which is more than double the amount from the next-highest recipient.
- Patient Care: UCSF Medical Centers neurology and neurosurgery program ranked fifth in the 2013 U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals survey.
For years, doctors have been doing deep brain stimulation to correct circuitry in movement disorders such as Parkinsons Disease. And for patients who are paralyzed or are missing limbs, scientists at the Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses where Chang is co-director have been working in the field of brain-machine interfaces to develop a tiny implantable device for the brain that can convert their thoughts into control commands for a robotic arm or exoskeleton.
This new project plans to leverage brain-machine interfaces to do the same for psychiatric patients but instead of driving a robotic arm or exoskeleton, the device would be able to detect abnormal brain activity and deliver electrical stimulation within the brain to alleviate the symptoms.
And because of its natural plasticity, the brain eventually could unlearn these abnormal signaling patterns and the patient could potentially be cured.
Read the news release to learn more about this project.
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The Roots Of Mental Illness
How much of mental illness can the biology of the brain explain?
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Monitor on Psychology43
Diagnosing mental illness isn’t like diagnosing other chronic diseases. Heart disease is identified with the help of blood tests and electrocardiograms. Diabetes is diagnosed by measuring blood glucose levels. But classifying mental illness is a more subjective endeavor. No blood test exists for depression no X-ray can identify a child at risk of developing bipolar disorder. At least, not yet.
Thanks to new tools in genetics and neuroimaging, scientists are making progress toward deciphering details of the underlying biology of mental disorders. Yet experts disagree on how far we can push this biological model. Are mental illnesses simply physical diseases that happen to strike the brain? Or do these disorders belong to a class all their own?
Eric Kandel, MD, a Nobel Prize laureate and professor of brain science at Columbia University, believes it’s all about biology. “All mental processes are brain processes, and therefore all disorders of mental functioning are biological diseases,” he says. “The brain is the organ of the mind. Where else could be if not in the brain?”
That viewpoint is quickly gaining supporters, thanks in part to Thomas R. Insel, MD, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, who has championed a biological perspective during his tenure at the agency.
A new toolkit
A nuanced view
The Causes Of Mental Illnesses5
At this time, scientists do not have a complete understanding of what causes mentalillnesses. If you think about the structural and organizational complexity of thebrain together with the complexity of effects that mental illnesses have onthoughts, feelings, and behaviors, it is hardly surprising that figuring out thecauses of mental illnesses is a daunting task. The fields of neuroscience,psychiatry, and psychology address different aspects of the relationship between thebiology of the brain and individuals’ behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, and howtheir actions sometimes get out of control. Through this multidisciplinary research,scientists are trying to find the causes of mental illnesses. Once scientists candetermine the causes of a mental illness, they can use that knowledge to develop newtreatments or to find a cure.
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Untangling Brain Circuits In Mental Illness
Depression. Anxiety Disorders. Addiction.
Theyre some of the most common conditions affecting peoples health, and for millions with the most severe cases, conventional treatments such as psychotherapy and medication dont work adequately or simply dont work at all.
What if there were a treatment that could target the specific brain circuits that caused these conditions and offer patients a long-lasting solution?
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and President Barack Obama held a news conference in April 2013 to launch the Brain Initiative, a $100 million challenge to uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimers, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.
A team of scientists and physicians led by UC San Francisco is launching a $26 million project, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency , to map the human brain circuits that go awry in neuropsychiatric disorders and employ advanced technology to correct these patterns.
Human brain recording can now reveal aspects of mental illness that have been inaccessible to scientists and doctors, said UCSF neurosurgeon Edward F. Chang, MD, who is leading the project. By analyzing patterns of interaction among brain regions known to be involved in mental illness we can get a more detailed look than ever before at what might be malfunctioning, and we can then develop technology to correct it.
Plasticity And The Brain: The Bodys Recovery System
Plasticity, or neuroplasticity, refers to the ways that neural pathways are able to re-form in the brain. Its true that these pathways like the one between the hippocampus and the amygdala can get severely damaged due to constant exposure to stress, but such changes are not necessarily permanent. While stress can negatively affect the brain, the brain and body can recover.
Young adults, especially, are able to recover from the effects of stress, according to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Age has a direct correlation with the reversibility of stress-related damage. Its much more difficult for older adults to regain or create new neural pathways than their younger counterparts.
Thats not to say all hope is lost for older adults. PNAS points out that interventions, or activities that combat stress wear-and-tear on the brain, are effective regardless of age. Interventions including activities like exercising regularly, socializing and finding purpose in life enable plasticity.
It can seem like stress is an inevitable part of life, but chronic stress can have real and significant consequences on the brain. Understanding these effects and how to combat them can help promote overall health.
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Protecting Our Brain And Mental Health Against Stress
The best way to protect our brain and make it more resilient to periods of anxiety is to learn to manage our stress in a healthy way, to reduce cortisol production and inflammation, says Ismail.
While its often hard to control our environment, it is possible to change our attitude to reduce its impact on us and restore balance. An important step is to recognize that a situation is stressful because this is how we perceive it. The simple fact of reminding ourselves that this is a temporary event and that the storm will pass helps build resilience.
According to Ismail, being organized can also help you feel more in control. Try to take things step by step by managing your time and making a schedule of the things you have to do. This usually allows us some distance to see things more clearly.
Sleep can also be an important ally in facing lifes ups and downs. Ismail suggests practising various relaxation techniques to instill calmness before going to bed. You can thus avoid the sleepless nights that generally come with periods of disruption.
Finally, listening and support are among the most powerful tools for overcoming hardships. Talking over your concerns with someone you trust helps bring relief. Ismail concludes by reminding us to never hesitate to ask for available mental health help.