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Science News About Schizophrenia

Brain “Relay” Also Key to Holding Thoughts in Mind

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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.

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Estrogen Alters Memory Circuit Function in Women with Gene Variant

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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.

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Higher Death Rate Among Youth with First Episode Psychosis

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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.

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Powered-Up Probe ID’s Schizophrenia Genes That Stunt Brain Development

Science Update

Scientists have pinpointed several schizophrenia-related gene variants that alter expression of other genes in illness-implicated circuitry of the human brain.

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Schizophrenia, Autism Risk Gene Trajectories Point to Shared Causes

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Schizophrenia, autism risk gene trajectories point to shared causes

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Circuit for Experience-Informed Decision-Making ID’d in Rats

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Scientists have discovered secrets of how the brain recalls experiences of being in a particular location in making informed choices.

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Team-based Treatment for First Episode Psychosis Found to be High Value

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Coordinated Specialty Care for First Episode Psychosis is Cost Effective

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Schizophrenia’s Strongest Known Genetic Risk Deconstructed

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Versions of a gene linked to schizophrenia may trigger runaway pruning of the teenage brain’s still-maturing communications infrastructure.The gene switched on more in people with the suspect versions, who faced a higher risk of developing the disorder.

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Biomarkers Outperform Symptoms in Parsing Psychosis Subgroups

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Three biomarker-based categories, called “biotypes,” outperformed traditional diagnoses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with psychosis, in sorting psychosis cases into distinct subgroups on the basis of brain biology

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Combating Early Death in People with Serious Mental Illness

Science Update

Recent articles in JAMA Psychiatry report and comment on the premature mortality seen among adults with schizophrenia; NIMH research is underway to reduce health risk factors in people with serious mental illness.

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Team-based Treatment is Better for First Episode Psychosis

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New research shows that a team-based, coordinated specialty care treatment plan produces better outcomes than typical community care for people with first episode psychosis. Investigators also found that treatment is most effective for people who receive care soon after psychotic symptoms begin.

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Disorders Share Risk Gene Pathways for Immune, Epigenetic Regulation

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Risk genes for different mental disorders work through same pathways

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Medications for Patients with First Episode Psychosis May Not Meet Guidelines

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Many patients with first-episode psychosis receive medications that do not meet guidelines. A study finds that almost 40 % of people with first-episode psychosis in community mental health clinics across the country might benefit from medication treatment changes.

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Increased Health Risks Linked to First-episode Psychosis

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Many patients with psychosis develop health risks associated with premature death early in the course of their mental illness, researchers have found.

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Suspect Gene Corrupts Neural Connections

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Researchers have shown in patients’ cells how a rare mutation in a suspect gene disrupts the expression of dozens of other genes underlying neural connections.

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Schizophrenia’s Genetic “Skyline” Rising

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The largest genomic dragnet of any psychiatric disorder to date has unmasked 108 chromosomal sites harboring inherited variations in the genetic code linked to schizophrenia, 83 of which had not been previously reported.

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For Schizophrenia, Newer Injectables Not Necessarily Better

Science Update

Treatment adherence is a problem among people with schizophrenia, who may not take medications because they don’t perceive its need or benefit, don’t like the side effects, or forget. To combat this issue, long-acting injectable medications are administered every 2-4 weeks. But are the new forms of these drugs better than the old ones?

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NIMH’s Dr. Robert Heinssen Receives Special Presidential Commendation from APA

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NIMH’s Dr. Robert Heinssen Receives Special Presidential Commendation from APA

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Brain Region Singled Out for Social Memory, Possible Therapeutic Target for Select Brain Disorders

Science Update

The hippocampus houses learning and memory—specifically the storage of knowledge of who, what, where, and when. Using a special transgenic mouse, researchers have now pinpointed a hippocampal region called CA2 that is important for social memory, the ability of animal to recognize another of the same species. Understanding this region could be useful in understanding and treating disorders characterized by altered social behaviors such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism.

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NeuroBioBank Gives Researchers One-stop Access to Post-mortem Brains

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The NIH NeuroBioBank provides researchers with one-stop access to post-mortem brains.

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Webinar on Childhood-Onset Schizophrenia with NIMH’s Judith L. Rapoport, M.D.

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Register for a webinar on September 9 featuring NIMH scientist Dr. Judith Rapoport, who will discuss brain development in childhood and adolescence and childhood-onset schizophrenia.

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New Data Reveal Extent of Genetic Overlap Between Major Mental Disorders

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The largest genome-wide study of its kind has determined how much five major mental illnesses are traceable to the same common inherited genetic variations.

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Stray Prenatal Gene Network Suspected in Schizophrenia

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Researchers have reverse-engineered the outlines of a disrupted prenatal gene network in schizophrenia, by tracing spontaneous mutations to where and when they likely cause damage in the brain.

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NIH Funds Industry Collaborations to Identify New Uses for Existing Compounds

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NIH Funds Industry Collaborations to Identify New Uses for Existing Compounds

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Taming Suspect Gene Reverses Schizophrenia-like Abnormalities in Mice

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Scientists have reversed behavioral and brain abnormalities in adult mice that resemble some features of schizophrenia, by restoring normal expression to the gene Neuregulin1, which makes a protein important for brain development.

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Flu in Pregnancy May Quadruple Child’s Risk for Bipolar Disorder

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Pregnant mothers’ exposure to the flu has been linked to a nearly 4-fold increased risk for bipolar disorder in their adult child.

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NIH Study Shows People with Serious Mental Illnesses Can Lose Weight

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Losing weight is challenging for everyone. It can be particularly difficult for someone with a serious mental illness. An NIMH-funded clinical study proves that a modified diet and exercise program can work for people with serious mental illnesses. Participants lost 7 pounds more than controls—and continued to lose weight.

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Developing Male Brain Exposed to Less Stress-Protective Protein

Science Update

Why are rates of schizophrenia and autism higher in males? New evidence implicates an enzyme expressed in the placenta that helps protect the developing fetal brain from adverse effects of maternal stress early in pregnancy.

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Five Major Mental Disorders Share Genetic Roots

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Five major mental disorders share some of the same genetic risk factors, the largest genome-wide study of its kind has found.

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Mapping Brain Circuits Provides Clues to Schizophrenia, Earlier Detection of Psychosis

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A newly identified brain circuit could lead to earlier detection of psychosis in patients with schizophrenia.

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Different Genes, Same Risk Pathway in Schizophrenia

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Work by NIMH-supported scientists illustrates the variability of the genes and biology underlying illnesses like schizophrenia.

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Gene Variants Implicated in Extreme Weight Gain Associated with Antipsychotics

Science Update

A small study suggests that people with certain genetic variants may be more susceptible to extreme weight gain if they take certain antipsychotic medications.

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Gene Regulator in Brain’s Executive Hub Tracked Across Lifespan – NIH study

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For the first time, scientists have tracked the activity, across the lifespan, of an environmentally responsive regulatory mechanism that turns genes on and off in the brain’s executive hub. Among key findings of the study by National Institutes of Health scientists: genes implicated in schizophrenia and autism turn out to be members of a select club of genes in which regulatory activity peaks during an environmentally-sensitive critical period in development.

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NIMH RAISE Project Makes Progress as Teams Refine Research Approaches

Science Update

Researchers continue to make progress in the NIMH Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) Project, which seeks to intervene at the earliest stages of illness in order to prevent long term disability. Recent refinements to the two RAISE studies will ensure that RAISE continues efficiently, and generates results that will be relevant to consumers and health care policy makers.

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Switching Antipsychotics May Reduce Metabolic Risks

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Patients experiencing cardiovascular or metabolic side effects while taking an antipsychotic medication may fare better if they switch to a different medication provided they are closely monitored, according to an NIMH-funded study.

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Rare Gene Glitch May Hold Clues for Schizophrenia – NIH-funded Study

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Scientists are eyeing a rare genetic glitch for clues to improved treatments for some people with schizophrenia – even though they found the mutation in only one third of 1 percent of patients.

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Mental Decline Thwarted in Aging Rats

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Scientists have discovered a compound that restores the capacity to form new memories in aging rats, likely by improving the survival of newborn neurons in the brain’s memory hub. The research, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, has turned up clues to a neuroprotective mechanism that could lead to a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

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Effectiveness of Long-term Use of Antipsychotic Medication to Treat Childhood Schizophrenia is Limited

Science Update

Few youths with early-onset schizophrenia who are treated with antipsychotic medications for up to a year appear to benefit from their initial treatment choice over the long term, according to results from an NIMH-funded study. The study was published online ahead of print May 4, 2010, in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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Impaired Brain Connections Traced to Schizophrenia Mutation

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The strongest known recurrent genetic cause of schizophrenia impairs communications between the brain’s decision-making and memory hubs, resulting in working memory deficits, according to a study in mice.

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Genes and Circuitry, Not Just Clinical Observation, to Guide Classification for Research

Science Update

NIMH is launching a long-term project aimed at ultimately improving treatment and prevention by studying classification of mental illness, based on genetics and neuroscience in addition to clinical observation. The Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project is not intended to replace psychiatry’s existing diagnostic system for practitioners and will proceed in an independent direction, said Bruce Cuthbert, Ph.D., Director of the NIMH Division of Adult Translational Research, who is directing the effort. By taking a fresh look – without preconceived categories – the project aims to improve the validity of classification for researchers.

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Symptoms in Mice Lacking a Single Receptor Type Mimic the Development of Schizophrenia

Science Update

Deleting one type of neurotransmitter receptor in a specific population of brain cells can induce schizophrenia-like behavior in mice, but only when the receptor is deleted early in development, according to a study by NIMH intramural scientists. The work provides strong support for previous observations implicating these receptors in psychosis; further, the mice provide a model of how psychotic symptoms can arise from a disruption in neuronal development, consistent with observations of how schizophrenia emerges in humans.

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High-Tech Robots’ Efforts Bear Fruit Thanks to NIH Roadmap

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Researchers recently announced discovery of a new class of molecules that holds promise for blocking the clumps of protein that clog the brain in Alzheimer’s disease. The new findings are the latest made possible by the NIH Roadmap Molecular Libraries initiative, which employs high-tech robots and molecular genetics to speedily screen molecules for their biological effects. The discovery required testing nearly 300,000 compounds – a task thought insurmountable just a decade ago.

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Atlas Will Reveal When and Where Genes Turn On in the Brain

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When and where in the brain a gene turns on holds clues to its possible role in disease. For example, a recent study found that forms of a gene associated with schizophrenia are over-expressed in the fetal brain, adding to evidence implicating this critical developmental period.

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First Direct Evidence: Instability is the Normal State of the Brain’s Cortex

Science Update

Even when we’re not doing much of anything, our brain’s cortex, or outer mantle, is bustling with activity. In fact, scientists for the first time have detected “avalanches” of cortex activity in awake monkeys at rest.

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Schizophrenia Linked to Over-expression of Gene in Fetal Brain

Science Update

A gene called DISC1, (for “disrupted in schizophrenia”) has been a leading contender among possible genetic causes since it was implicated in schizophrenia in a large Scottish clan two decades ago. The DISC1 gene codes for a protein important for brain development, as well as for mood and memory – functions that are disturbed in schizophrenia. However, until now there have been few clues as to how DISC1 might increase risk for the chronic mental disorder.

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Major NIMH Research Project to Test Approaches to Altering the Course of Schizophrenia

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The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is launching a large-scale research project to explore whether using early and aggressive treatment, individually targeted and integrating a variety of different therapeutic approaches, will reduce the symptoms and prevent the gradual deterioration of functioning that is characteristic of chronic schizophrenia.

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Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Share Genetic Roots

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A trio of genome-wide studies – collectively the largest to date – has pinpointed a vast array of genetic variation that cumulatively may account for at least one third of the genetic risk for schizophrenia. One of the studies traced schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, in part, to the same chromosomal neighborhoods.

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Flow of Potassium Into Cells Implicated in Schizophrenia

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A study on schizophrenia has implicated machinery that maintains the flow of potassium in cells and revealed a potential molecular target for new treatments. Expression of a previously unknown form of a key such potassium channel was found to be 2.5 fold higher than normal in the brain memory hub of people with the chronic mental illness and linked to a hotspot of genetic variation.

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Gene On/Off Instructions Inherited Via Shadowy Mechanism

Science Update

The first large-scale study of its kind in twins has turned up evidence that we inherit instructions for the turning on and off of genes via mechanisms beyond the traditional sequence differences in the genetic code. Moreover, the results suggest that early random errors in replicating these instructions may trump environmental influences in shaping us.

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New Silvio O. Conte Centers Address Brain Development, Disorders

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With a mandate to use innovative, multidisciplinary research approaches to address important mental health questions, four newly funded centers have begun investigations of schizophrenia, brain development, and adolescent mood disorders.

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Expert Panel Addresses High Rates of Smoking in People with Psychiatric Disorders

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Numerous biological, psychological, and social factors are likely to play a role in the high rates of smoking in people with psychiatric disorders, according to the report of an expert panel convened by the National Institute of Mental Health. The report reviews current literature and identifies research needed to clarify these factors and their interactions, and to improve treatment aimed at reducing the rates of illness and mortality from smoking in this population.

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Study Probes Environment-Triggered Genetic Changes in Schizophrenia

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The first study of its kind to pinpoint environment-triggered genetic changes in schizophrenia has been launched with $9.8 million in funding from NIMH. The five-site study seeks telltale marks in the genome that hold clues to how nurture interacts with nature to produce the illness.

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Not All Antipsychotics Created Equal: Analysis Reveals Important Differences

Science Update

An analysis of studies on antipsychotics reveals multiple differences among the newer, second-generation antipsychotics as well as the older medications, and suggests the current classification system blurs important differences, rendering it unhelpful.

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Brain’s Wiring Stunted, Lopsided in Childhood Onset Schizophrenia

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Growth of the brain’s long distance connections, called white matter, is stunted and lopsided in children who develop psychosis before puberty, NIMH researchers have discovered.

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Certain Antipsychotic Medications May Increase Risk for Heart Disease

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Certain atypical antipsychotic medications may raise the risk for heart disease in people with schizophrenia, according to an analysis of data from the NIMH-funded Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) study.

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New Study to Evaluate Ways to Control Metabolic Side Effects of Antipsychotics

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A new NIMH-funded grant will examine ways to control the metabolic side effects associated with the use of the newer atypical antipsychotic medications in children with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

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Why “My Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Went”

Science Update

If, as the song laments, our get up and go fades as we get older, it may stem from aging-related changes in a brain reward circuit.

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Gene Variants Force Mental Trade-offs: Efficiency vs. Resiliency

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Mice genetically engineered to have an over active version of a human gene, like their human counterparts, gain in emotional mettle under stress, but at a cost of less efficient thinking, NIMH scientists have discovered.

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Newer Antipsychotics No Better Than Older Drug in Treating Child and Adolescent Schizophrenia

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Two newer atypical antipsychotic medications were no more effective than an older conventional antipsychotic in treating child and adolescent schizophrenia and may lead to more metabolic side effects, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

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Childhood Bedwetting Occurred Twice as Often in Adults with Schizophrenia

Science Update

Childhood bedwetting occurred twice as often in adults with schizophrenia than in their unaffected brothers and sisters, according to a new study from researchers at NIMH.

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Increased Burden of Rare Genetic Variations Found in Schizophrenia

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People with schizophrenia bear an “increased burden” of rare deletions and duplications of genetic material, genome-wide, say researchers supported in part by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Health Risks Associated with Certain Antipsychotics Warrant Extra Monitoring

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Some atypical antipsychotics may be more likely than others to cause metabolic and cardiovascular side effects, according to recent analyses using data from the NIMH-funded Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE).

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Newer Antipsychotics No Better Than Older Medications in Reducing Schizophrenia-related Violence

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Antipsychotic medications can reduce the risk of violence among people with schizophrenia, but the newer atypical antipsychotics are no more effective in doing so than older medications, according to a recent analysis of data from the NIMH-funded Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE).

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Abnormal Surge in Brain Development Occurs in Teens and Young Adults with Schizophrenia

Science Update

Schizophrenia may occur, in part, because brain development goes awry during adolescence and young adulthood, when the brain is eliminating some connections between cells as a normal part of maturation, results of a study suggest. The new report appears online July 8, 2008 in Molecular Psychiatry.

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NIMH Schizophrenia Initiative Featured in Biological Psychiatry

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An NIMH initiative to fill the gap between advances in basic cognitive neuroscience and practical clinical applications for patients with schizophrenia is the topic of the July 1, 2008 issue of Biological Psychiatry.

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Mice Expressing Human Genes Bred to Help Unravel Mental Disorders

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New mouse strains engineered to express human genes related to mental disorders are being developed under a recently-launched grant program from NIMH’s Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science.

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Study launched to test possible preventive treatment for schizophrenia in high risk youth

Science Update

NIMH has recently awarded a grant to study whether an intensive computerized training program can help prevent those at high risk of developing schizophrenia from having a first psychotic episode and improve adaptive functioning. The program is based on principles of brain development and resilience and an understanding of the processes that go awry in schizophrenia.

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Rates of Rare Mutations Soar Three to Four Times Higher in Schizophrenia

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People with schizophrenia have high rates of rare genetic deletions and duplications that likely disrupt the developing brain, according to studies funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

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Scans Reveal Faulty Brain Wiring Caused by Missing Genes

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An NIMH study using an emerging imaging technology has discovered faulty wiring in the brains of people with Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects some aspects of thinking.

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Tomorrow’s Antidepressants: Skip the Serotonin Boost?

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New research adds to evidence of potentially better molecular targets in the brain to treat depression and other mental disorders, according to NIMH-funded scientists.

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Scientists Can Predict Psychotic Illness in up to 80 Percent of High-Risk Youth

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Youth who are going to develop psychosis can be identified before their illness becomes full-blown 35 percent of the time if they meet widely accepted criteria for risk, but that figure rises to 65 to 80 percent if they have certain combinations of risk factors, the largest study of its kind has shown. Knowing what these combinations are can help scientists predict who is likely to develop the illnesses within two to three years with the same accuracy that other kinds of risk factors can predict major medical diseases, such as diabetes.

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Real-World Outcomes in Schizophrenia Are Focus of Two New NIMH Grants

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Two new NIMH grants are aimed at determining the most accurate methods of measuring how well community-dwelling people with schizophrenia are faring. Results of the project are meant to provide scientists who conduct future research on the effectiveness of treatments with tools that will reflect the truest possible picture of daily-life outcomes.

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Ethnicity Predicts How Gene Variations Affect Response to Schizophrenia Medications

Science Update

Different variations in the same gene influence how well different ethnic groups, and people within the same ethnic group, respond to various antipsychotic medications, report NIMH-funded researchers. If confirmed, their findings could one day help clinicians predict which medication is most likely to help a patient, based on his or her genetic makeup.

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Schizophrenia-Related Gene Linked to Imbalance in Dopamine Pathways

Science Update

Forms of a gene known to increase risk for schizophrenia may create an imbalance in brain pathways for dopamine, suggests a recent study by NIMH scientists.

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How Schizophrenia Develops: Major Clues Discovered

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Schizophrenia may occur, in part, because of a problem in an intermittent on/off switch for a gene involved in making a key chemical messenger in the brain, scientists have found in a study of human brain tissue.

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Suspect Schizophrenia Genes Act Together to Thwart Working Memory

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Two gene variants implicated in schizophrenia interact to degrade the brains ability to process information, NIMH researchers have discovered.

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Violence in Schizophrenia Patients More Likely Among Those with Childhood Conduct Problems

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Some people with schizophrenia who become violent may do so for reasons unrelated to their current illness, according to a new study analyzing data from the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials for Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE).

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Antipsychotic Medications for Schizophrenia on Equal Footing in Improving Patients’ Thinking Skills

Science Update

Patients with schizophrenia taking antipsychotic medications experience a small improvement in thinking and reasoning skills (neurocognition), but no one medication appears to be better than the others in improving these skills during the first two crucial months of treatment, according to the latest results from the NIMH-funded Clinical Antipsychotic Trials for Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE).

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New Details in Schizophrenia Treatment Trial Emerge

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Two new studies from the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials for Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) provide more insights into comparing treatment options, and to what extent antipsychotic medications help people with schizophrenia learn social, interpersonal and community living skills.

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Common Gene Version Optimizes Thinking — but With a Possible Downside

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Most people inherit a version of a gene that optimizes their brain’s thinking circuitry, yet also appears to increase risk for schizophrenia, a severe mental illness marked by impaired thinking, scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have discovered.

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Gene Variant Linked to Schizophrenia

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A gene implicated in schizophrenia in adults has now also been linked to schizophrenia in children for the first time, strengthening evidence that the gene plays a role in the disease.

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