What Is New In Schizophrenia Research

Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC

Published 12/14/2020

In the multitude of schizophrenia research articles, there have been many interesting and promising finds lately, from risk factors to causes and even some about possible future treatments. While it is good to stay apprised of the newest updates, it is important to note that these are new findings, and some of them may not have been approved or proven. However, these latest ideas in schizophrenia journals are interesting and worth consideration.

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The Link Between Metabolic Syndrome And Schizophrenia

In the schizophrenic journal Translational Psychiatry, a study published in 2020 found a link to metabolic syndrome and schizophrenia. The shared genetic etiology of components in certain lipid metabolism pathways in the brain’s gray matter may be a link to schizophrenia. The study found that lipid-related metabolites were a confirmed genetic link between lipid metabolism and schizophrenia.

Metabolic syndrome has also been found to share a commonality with schizophrenia, giving researchers more reason to continue to study the phenomenon. The metabolic syndrome produces clinical features that show a vulnerability to schizophrenia in a large number of participants. Also, scientists have attributed this to a dysfunction in the sphingolipids pathway linked to schizophrenia pathology.

There May Be A Connection Between A Prenatal Virus And Schizophrenia

In another article in the schizophrenia research journal Insights in Neurosurgery, evidence indicates that a connection between a virus in the mother during pregnancy may be a factor in schizophrenia. The virus found in these situations was Herpes Simplex Hominis type 1. Both the virus and mitochondria were affected and were found to be a direct relation to the physiopathology and etiology of schizophrenia. The evidence points to the beginning of schizophrenia during pregnancy due to damage of the fetus’ brain.

One thing to note about the study is that the mothers who participated were previously diagnosed with schizophrenia. However, those with the antibodies to the Herpes virus were found to be significantly more at risk of having a child who develops schizophrenia. The research suggests future tests of amniotic fluid from mothers at risk early in the pregnancy, so they have the chance to get treatment.

Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder A Precursor To Schizophrenia?

In a recent article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry with a high schizophrenia research impact factor, researchers found what may be a connection between obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia. In this case study, the participant was diagnosed with OCD in his late teens. However, within two years, the patient developed more serious signs of schizophrenia, including psychosis. The study indicates that family history is taken when diagnosing a patient with OCD. In this case, the boy had a family history of schizophrenia, putting him at a higher risk for developing the disease.

Low Protein Levels In The Brain May Be Connected To Schizophrenia

Technological advances in brain scans have found evidence of lower levels of a certain protein in the brain’s connections between neurons in those with schizophrenia. Using special scanners, the scientists found that a special protein (synaptic vesicle glycoprotein 2A) was lower in the frontal lobe of the brain in those who have schizophrenia. This part of the brain is the area that controls planning. The researchers plan to do more studies to use this protein to possibly treat schizophrenia in the future.

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Can Insomnia Be A Causal Factor In Schizophrenia?

In a meta-analysis of 58 studies, sleep disruption proved to be a major cause in the worsening of symptoms in schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and paranoia. The majority of participants reported that when their sleep was disrupted, their symptoms increased. In fact, in one study of more than 1,800 participants, 75% to 80% of them experienced insomnia before their symptoms increased.

The individuals who got psychological sleep intervention treatment indicated fewer symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, and overall cognitive function. However, scientists need to do much more research to determine why sleep is such a big factor in schizophrenia symptoms and what can be done.

Is There A Link Between COVID-19 And Psychosis In Schizophrenia?

Studies were done in a group of articles recently published to identify possible correlations between COVID-19 and psychosis. Among 49,692 COVID-19 patients, it was found that more than 25% of them had possible psychotic episodes during their illness. The researchers believe that these rapid review findings warrant more research due to the evidence of COVID-19 patients developing psychosis. The experts believe that more data is needed to determine whether COVID-19, schizophrenia, the hospital experience, or something else altogether.

Mindfulness- And Acceptance-Based Interventions For Persons With Psychosis

Studies of 1,268 individuals with schizophrenia found that mindfulness and acceptance approaches are effective and safe treatments. To be more precise, cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, was the intervention used to treat psychosis in these cases. It was the main treatment in these patients with delusions, hallucinations, and other psychotic symptoms.

In mindfulness therapy, the main component is acceptance and awareness. The thought process is that those individuals experiencing psychosis could benefit from accepting that they may have uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. By learning to accept the symptoms of psychosis as they come, the individuals were able to recover from the incidents easier and faster.

Cognitive Remediation And Schizophrenia

Another treatment that may benefit those who have schizophrenia is cognitive remediation. The skills taught in this type of therapy include concentration, memory, language, planning, and executive functioning. Computer-based practice techniques in learning better cognitive abilities have shown to be an important factor in rehabilitating those with schizophrenia.

The therapist involved in treating the patients with cognitive remediation uses social functioning skills through role-playing, molding behavior with positive reinforcement, journaling, and goal-related worksheets. Problem-solving and learning real-life cognitive skills are achieved through computer programs and working with the therapist.

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New Therapeutic Training For Better Communication

One of the most commonly reported symptoms of schizophrenia is speech disturbances. This is thought to impair the executive functions, and researchers believe monitoring and training can improve the symptoms. Being able to communicate is an important function for anyone, and when that cannot be accomplished, it can prove to be a major stressor.

One treatment that has recently been in the news is linguistic cohesion and metacognitive therapeutic training. Language disturbances such as illogical speech, derailment, and tangentiality often complicate the treatment of schizophrenia and may predict a psychotic event. Therefore, those who have had language disturbances or are at high risk for psychosis may benefit from linguistic cohesion and metacognitive therapeutic training.

In fact, the results of recent studies supported the idea that linguistic cohesion and metacognitive therapeutic training for those with schizophrenia are at a higher risk for psychosis. The improvement in executive functioning and communication was significant, and further study is ongoing, and the results are encouraging.

Cognitive Deficits May Be Linked To Schizophrenia Gene

According to researchers, SETD1a, which is the gene linked to schizophrenia, may also be seen in those with abnormal working memory. The research is focused on counteracting this gene’s deficiency and repairing the circuit deficits, possibly treating cognitive deficits. The work being done has shown promise as the possibilities for treatments increase.

NRG3 May Be Linked To Cognitive Deficits In Schizophrenia

Another cognitive deficit study found that the NRG3 gene involved in neuronal functioning, may be associated with schizophrenia and cognition. In this study, with over a thousand participants, the individuals were cognitively tested with the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS). The NRG3rs1074882 gene was linked to a higher level of cognitive deficits in those with schizophrenia.

Is Broccoli A Possible Treatment For Schizophrenia?

Johns Hopkins Medicine experts have found what may be a link between a compound found in broccoli sprouts and the chemical imbalance in schizophrenia. According to these researchers, this compound contains high sulforaphane levels, which is thought to help level out the brain chemicals in schizophrenia patients. According to Johns Hopkins experts, the symptoms of delusions and hallucinations are typically being controlled with antipsychotic medication, but this all-natural compound is a safer and effective alternative.

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study that was published by Johns Hopkins in the JAMA Psychiatry journal found an average of 4% lesser levels of glutamate in the brain of those with schizophrenia. Also, they used the chemical sulforaphane to treat cells to control the amount of glutamate in the brain. Finding the results favorable, they performed other studies that have shown increasingly promising results.

Deletion Syndrome May Be Connected To Hallucinations

In Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, a study found that schizophrenia hallucinations may be connected to an aberrant brain connectivity problem. Using MRIs, they compared the brain structuring of 230 patients in which they concluded that those with a genetic disorder 22q11.2 deletion syndrome are at a much higher risk of developing schizophrenia. They believe this may be due to abnormalities in the thalamus, a part of the brain that controls sensory and language processing. This indicates that there is a connection between the syndrome and the hallucinations of schizophrenia.

Talk To A Professional

If you or someone you care about has signs or symptoms of schizophrenia or any other mental health disorder, it is important to talk to a mental health professional. If you are not sure, you can get more information by taking an online test for schizophrenia. It is always important to check with your doctor before starting or stopping any illness treatments.