-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- A new imaging study
reveals abnormalities in the white matter of brains of people with
Researchers used two types of brain imaging: magnetic resonance
spectroscopy, which measures the levels of particular chemicals in
the brain; and magnetization transfer imaging, which detects
changes in the level of myelin in the brain's white matter.
Nerve cells must be insulated by myelin to effectively transmit
signals from one part of the brain to the other, explained the
authors of the study published Sept. 15 in the journal
"The notion that the brain in schizophrenia is characterized by abnormalities in connections between distant brain regions is not new, and imaging studies using diffusion tensor imaging have long suggested that the white matter where these connections travel is abnormal in this condition," study senior author Dr. Dost Ongur, of Harvard Medical School, said in a journal news release.
"However, we have not had the tools to determine whether the abnormalities are in axons, or the myelin sheath around the axons, or both," Ongur added.
The researchers found evidence of abnormalities in both myelin
and axons (nerve cell projections) in patients with schizophrenia,
a serious psychiatric disorder. More specifically, they found
reduced myelination of white matter pathways in people with
schizophrenia, and also abnormal spread of a type of small molecule
(called N-acetylaspartate) thought to be mainly contained within
The findings are important because they suggest that "the white
matter abnormalities in schizophrenia are complex and
interconnected," Ongur said. "A strategy to impact both axonal
health and myelin synthesis may be needed to restore normal white
matter functioning in this condition."
According to journal editor, Dr. John Krystal: "This study
provides new evidence that myelination abnormalities in
schizophrenia are associated with disturbances in the functional
integrity of the white matter. As the white matter carries
long-range communication in the brain, the current findings raise
new questions about the functional impact and treatment for these
neural deficits," he said in the news release.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about
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