London: In a major step forward in the diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia, researchers have discovered that its symptoms are linked to the brain's anatomical characteristics.
"The current study provides further evidence that schizophrenia is a heterogeneous group of disorders, as opposed to a single illness, as was previously thought to be case," said one of the researchers Igor Zwir from University of Granada in Spain.
In order to carry out the study, the researchers employed a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique called "diffusion tensor imaging" on 36 healthy participants and 47 schizophrenic participants.
The tests conducted on the schizophrenic participants revealed that they had various abnormalities in certain parts of their corpus callosum, a bundle of neural fibres that connects the right and left cerebral hemispheres and is considered essential for effective inter-hemispheric communication.
When the researchers detected anomalies in the brain's entire corpus callosum, they discovered that certain characteristic features revealed in the brain scans coincided with specific schizophrenic symptoms.
For instance, patients with specific features in a particular part of the corpus callosum exhibited strange and disorganised behaviour.
In other participants, the irregularities observed in a different part of this brain structure were associated with disorganised thought and speech, and negative symptoms such as a lack of emotion. Other anomalies in the brain's corpus callosum were associated with hallucinations.
The findings were published in the journal NeuroImage.
"To conduct the research, we did not begin by studying individuals who had certain schizophrenic symptoms in order to determine whether they had the corresponding brain anomalies”" Zwir explained.
"Instead, we first analysed the data, and that is how we discovered these patterns. This type of information, combined with data on the genetics of schizophrenia, will someday be of vital importance in helping doctors treat the disorders in a more precise and effective way," Zwir said.