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MRI Study Reveals Brain of Schizophrenic Patients Attempt to Repair Itself

May 30, 2016 11:10 PM EDT

A new study using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) suggests that human brains may have the ability to repair themselves and fend off schizophrenia.

Previously, many researchers believed that it is not possible to cure people with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia.

"Even the state-of-art frontline treatments aim merely for a reduction rather than a reversal of the cognitive and functional deficits caused by the illness," said Dr. Lena Palaniyappan, Medical Director at the Prevention & Early Intervention Program for Psychoses (PEPP) at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), in a statement.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, revealed that despite the association of schizophrenia with widespread reduction of brain tissue volume, certain part of the brain experience subtle increase in tissue volume.

For the study, researchers followed 98 patients with schizophrenia and compared them to 83 patients without schizophrenia. They asked the participants to undergo MRI. Using a special technique called "covariance analysis," in addition to the MRI results; the researchers were able to distinguish the amount of brain tissue increase of each participant.

Researchers found out that the brain of patients with schizophrenia is constantly attempting to repair and reorganize itself, despite the severity of tissue damage caused by the illness. The researchers believe that this is the brain's way of dealing with the illness, rescuing itself or limiting further damage.

According to the researchers, their findings might lead other researchers to the development of targeted treatments that could better address some of the core pathology of schizophrenia.

"Brain plasticity and the development of related therapies would contribute to a new optimism in an illness that was 100 years ago described as premature dementia for its seemingly progressive deterioration," explained Dr. Jeffrey Reiss, Site Chief, Psychiatry, LHSC, in a press release.

The researchers are planning to continue on with their research to further understand the evolution of this brain tissue reorganization process by repeatedly scanning individual patients with early schizophrenia and study the effect of this reorganization on their recovery.

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