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September 10, 2004
Stress Hormones and Schizophrenia
Read more... Schizophrenia Biology
Stress Hormones could play role in schizophrenia
New research suggests that the over-producuction of stress hormones could be responsible for physical changes to the brain in people with schizophrenia.
In a world-first study of 18 to 24-year-olds at high risk of developing a psychotic illness, researchers at the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre and Orygen Research Centre have found that those who develop schizophrenia have a larger pituitary gland at the base of their brains than those who do not develop the illness.
This was also true for those who developed psychotic depression. Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia are more likely to become apparent in early adulthood than at any other stage of life.
Melbourne University neuropsychiatry professor Christos Pantelis said the hormone cortisol, which is active in response to stress, could damage the brain.
The find could pave the way for early diagnosis, preventative tactics and new treatments for schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses.
Professor Christos Pantelis said it suggested that high levels of stress at
"It may be that developing ways to treat the illness early as well as reduce
In the early stages of schizophrenia -- which usually develops in a person's
The researchers are currently examining the levels of stress hormones
The findings were released yesterday at the opening of the Melbourne (Australia) Neuropsychiatry Centre at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. While it was not yet clear if the enlarged pituitary gland was a cause or an effect of the brain changes observed, Professor Pantelis said the onset of psychotic conditions was highly stressful for young people and "they may be more vulnerable to the effects of the stress".
I like the notion of the integration of the psychological (stress) and the biological (pituitary gland).
If the findings on the pituitary gland are confirmed it may be possible to inhibit the production of cortisol and stop its damaging effects. Professor Pantelis hopes the changes seen in the earlier MRI work will also enable researchers to detect changes in the brain at the earliest onset of the condition.
David Castle of the Mental Health Research Institute said the initial findings of the team on the changes to the hippocampus were very important.
"I think all these things are pushing back the frontiers, really, and I like the notion of the integration of the psychological (stress) and the biological (pituitary gland)," he said.
Professor Castle said there was still much to be learnt about schizophrenia, saying the unknown outweighed the known. Professor Pantelis' group, with Orygen, is now planning to look at brain changes that might occur earlier in life in those at high risk of psychotic illness
Posted by szadmin at September 10, 2004 12:09 AM
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