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and treatment of mental illnesses.

Science News About Schizophrenia

Illustration of DNA double helix
Gene Readouts Contribute To Distinctness of Mental Disorders

A new study conducted by researchers at NIMH suggests that differences in the expression of gene transcripts – readouts copied from DNA that help maintain and build our cells – may hold the key to understanding how mental disorders with shared genetic risk factors result in different patterns of onset, symptoms, course of illness, and treatment responses.

Neuronal spines
Schizophrenia Risk Gene Linked to Cognitive Deficits in Mice

Mice with an impaired version of one the few genes definitively linked to schizophrenia showed abnormalities in working memory, mimicking those commonly seen in schizophrenia patients.

microscopic image of an induced human neuron
Gene Regulators Work Together for Oversized Impact on Schizophrenia Risk

Gene expression regulators work together to raise an individual’s risk of developing schizophrenia. Schizophrenia-like gene expression changes modeled in human neurons matched changes found in patients’ brains.

a group of young people sits on grass in the sun
NIH Announces Funding Awards for National Early Psychosis Learning Community

NIMH awarded six research grants for studies to develop a learning health care system for the treatment of early psychosis.

ALACRITY - Progress, Promising Practices, and Future Prospects - Center Directors' Meeting - July 16-17, 1029, Bethesda, MD
Mental Health Research Centers Forge Collaborations – with ALACRITY

Mental health research center directors emerged from a recent meeting with a renewed commitment to help each other achieve their common mission – to transform care of children, adolescents and adults with severe psychiatric disorders.

MRI image displays a map of substantia nigra voxels where NM-MRI signal was positively correlated with severity of psychotic symptoms.
Neuromelanin-Sensitive MRI Identified as a Potential Biomarker for Psychosis

Researchers have shown that a type of magnetic resonance imaging — called neuromelanin-sensitive MRI (NM-MRI) — is a potential biomarker for psychosis. NM-MRI signal was found to be a marker of dopamine function in people with schizophrenia and an indicator of the severity of psychotic symptoms in people with this mental illness.

A heatmap shows the amount of time a mouse spent in locations of an open field chamber during optogenetic stimulation of the cerebellar input to the VTA.
New Findings Reveal Surprising Role of the Cerebellum in Reward and Social Behaviors

A new study in rodents has demonstrated, for the first time, that the brain’s cerebellum plays a role in controlling reward and social preference behavior—findings that shed light on the brain circuits critical to the affective and social dysfunction seen across multiple psychiatric disorders.

brain scan showing molecular structure
2,000 Human Brains Yield Clues to How Genes Raise Risk for Mental Illnesses

PsychENCODE researchers are discovering the biological mechanisms by which mental illness risk genes work in the human brain.

People standing in a circle, reaching into the middle and placing their hands on top of one another.
Studies Support Use of Team-Based Care for Early Psychosis

Two recent studies add to the evidence that team-based early intervention services are feasible in real-world health care settings and result in improved outcomes for patients.

22nd NIMH Conference on Mental Health Services Research
Hyperconnectivity in a Brain Circuit May Predict Psychosis

NIMH-funded scientists have discovered a pattern in the way a brain circuit works that may help predict the onset of psychosis. High levels of chatter, or “hyperconnectivity,” in a circuit involving the cerebellum, thalamus, and cortex emerged as a potential “neural signature” in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study.

MRI scan of infant's brain
Inflammation in Pregnant Moms Linked to Child’s Brain Development

High levels of maternal inflammation during pregnancy have been linked to effects in children, including reduced brain circuit communications and altered long-distance brain wiring at birth, poorer cognitive function at one year – and to reduced impulse control and working memory at two years.

Chart shows correlations of gene expression between mental disorders.
Suspect Molecules Overlap in Autism, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder

Depression, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder share some of the same patterns of suspect gene expression – molecular signatures.

Risperidone docked in D2 receptor
Molecular Secrets Revealed: Antipsychotic Docked in its Receptor

Scientists have deciphered the molecular structure of a widely-prescribed antipsychotic docked in its key human brain receptor. The discovery may hold clues to designing better treatments for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.

Pasca's Astrocytes
Scientists Give Star Treatment to Lesser-Known Cells Crucial for Brain Development

Star-shaped support brain cells, astrocytes, growing in 3-D “organoids” in a dish develop similarly as those in human brain tissue.

image of an astrocyte
Patient-Derived Support Cells Stunt Mouse Brain Development

Support cells generated from patients with childhood onset schizophrenia stunted neural circuit development when grafted into developing mouse brains.

Neanderthal gene-influenced brain visual system areas
Our Brains Harbor “Residual Echo” of Neanderthal Genes

Researchers have produced the first direct evidence that parts of our brains implicated in mental disorders may be shaped by a “residual echo” from our ancient past. The more a person’s genome carries genetic vestiges of Neanderthals, the more certain parts of his or her brain and skull resemble those of humans’ evolutionary cousins that went extinct 40,000 years ago.

Thalamus neuron
Brain “Relay” Also Key to Holding Thoughts in Mind

Long overlooked as a mere “relay,” an egg-like structure in the middle of the brain also turns out to play a pivotal role in tuning-up thinking circuity. A trio of studies in mice are revealing that the thalamus sustains the ability to distinguish categories and hold thoughts in mind. It might even become a target for interventions for psychiatric disorders marked by working memory problems, such as schizophrenia.

hippocampus PET scan
Estrogen Alters Memory Circuit Function in Women with Gene Variant

Brain scans reveal that fluctuations in estrogen can trigger atypical functioning in a key brain memory circuit in women with a common version of a gene. Since working memory function is often disturbed in mental disorders, such gene-hormone interactions are suspect mechanisms that may confer risk.

Emergency sign on hospital
Higher Death Rate Among Youth with First Episode Psychosis

A new study shows that young people with first episode psychosis have a much higher death rate than previously thought. Researchers looked at people aged 16-30 and found that the group died at a rate at least 24 times greater than the same age group in the general population.