Schizophrenia is a major psychotic illness that affects the functioning of the brain, interfering with the way a person thinks, feels and acts. The most common time of onset for males is between 18 and 25 years, and for females between 25 years and mid-30s.
While many people have only witnessed schizophrenia in movies like A Beautiful Mind, it actually affects one in 100 people worldwide. Some of these people will recover completely. For others, treatment can alleviate the debilitating symptoms. However, for 15-20% of patients, it remains an extremely disabling, lifelong illness.
Symptoms and Causes
Schizophrenia is characterised by two or more of the following:
- Disorganised speech
- Grossly disorganised or catatonic behaviour
- Negative symptoms (eg social withdrawal, reduced motivation/interest, inappropriate responses)
For diagnosis, these symptoms must impair social and occupational functioning and continue for at least six months.
There are a number of theories about what causes schizophrenia, but so far the biological mechanisms behind the disease are not fully understood. What we do know is:
- People with a first degree relative with schizophrenia are ten times more likely to develop it themselves
- Stress may increase the chance of someone already vulnerable of developing schizophrenia
- Increased levels of dopamine may explain some psychotic symptoms
- Recreational drug use has been associated with triggering episodes.
Many brain disorders, including schizophrenia, autism and intellectual disability, involve abnormal development and function of the brain. In a condition like schizophrenia, the experience of hallucinations, blunted emotions and reduced mental ability for sufferers can be intolerable, and also devastating for family and friends.
The Neural Plasticity group researches the interaction of the environment with the genetic mechanisms underlying maturation of the brain in conditions like schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders.View labs and projects