Schizophrenia affects one in a hundred Canadians at some point in their life. This disorder is characterized by auditory hallucinations, delusions, lack of motivation and thought disorder. Antipsychotic drugs improve some of these symptoms, but there is no cure and the cause of schizophrenia is still unknown. Current models suggest that a brain lesion in-utero, in conjunction with neurodegeneration, may result in the symptoms of the disease. These processes may result in abnormal brain function, manifested as changes in brain metabolism.
In our past studies of first-episode and chronic schizophrenia, we used 31P MRS, a noninvasive technique, to measure the changes in brain metabolism. These studies revealed significant changes between patients and normals in several regions, including the thalamus, and the anterior cingulate. In order to determine the location of significant changes in metabolites as the disease progresses, more measurements between the initial and chronic stages of the disease are required.
In this longitudinal study of schizophrenia, the same subjects undergo 2 separate scans, the first at disease onset and the second at 30 months. Presently 24 schizophrenic patients and 15 matched controls have undergone the initial scan at disease onset and 6 schizophrenic patients and 6 controls have undergone the 30 month scan. Once complete, this study may reveal locations where significant membrane abnormalities occur in the early progression of the disease. This information will help to confirm that degeneration continues after schizophrenia is diagnosed clinically and may also help to target drug treatments to prevent this degeneration