Skip to main content

Study Finds Disrupted Stress Response in Schizophrenia Patients

A new Canadian study published in the journal Brain shows that stress tends to impact the brain and body differently in schizophrenia patients than in healthy people or even in those at high risk for developing psychosis.

Specifically, the researchers found that the association between two chemicals released when people experienced stress — one released in the brain and the other in saliva — differs in people with schizophrenia.

“We found a disrupted stress response in people with schizophrenia, which did not occur in either healthy individuals or people at clinical high risk for developing psychosis,” said lead author Dr. Christin Schifani from the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Since most schizophrenia patients experience psychosis, identifying differences between those at high risk for psychosis and those with schizophrenia may shed light on how the mental illness develops and ways to prevent its onset.

“The fact we see this disrupted stress response in people with schizophrenia, but not in people at high risk for psychosis, suggests an opportunity to intervene to prevent schizophrenia,” said senior author Dr. Romina Mizrahi, clinician scientist in the Campbell Institute at CAMH.

“Developing strategies to cope with stress and build resilience may be the opportunity.”

Mizrahi heads the Focus on Youth Psychosis Prevention (FYPP) Clinic and research program at CAMH, which is dedicated to the early identification and treatment of people aged 16 to 35 who are at high risk of developing psychosis.

Helping patients identify sources of stress and learn coping strategies is a key focus of the clinic’s work. The researchers plan to study the impact of these stress management techniques to reduce psychosis and schizophrenia risks.

The study involved 14 people with schizophrenia, 14 people at clinical high risk for psychosis and 12 people without mental illness. The researchers specifically examined two important stress chemicals: dopamine and cortisol.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that carries signals from one brain cell, or neuron, to another. The research team focused on dopamine released in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain involved in complex functions, including emotion regulation. Cortisol is a hormone released from the adrenal glands to help the body handle stressful situations.

In healthy people, both dopamine and cortisol levels typically increase during stress. However, this connection between dopamine release and cortisol release did not appear in people with schizophrenia.

“Cortisol is the main stress hormone, so this suggests a disrupted stress regulatory system in people with schizophrenia,” said Mizrahi.

To investigate each participant’s stress response, the researchers used a math test. In the first part of the experiment, participants answered math questions on a computer screen without any time limit while a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner produced an image of dopamine in their brain as they completed the task.

In the second part of the test, participants in the PET scanner had to answer math questions under time constraints while also receiving negative verbal feedback. Saliva samples were collected during both experiments to measure cortisol levels.

The new findings build on previous research by Mizrahi which focused on another region of the brain — the striatum.

“Our previous research had shown that people at high risk for psychosis and those experiencing a first episode of psychosis have abnormal, or increased dopamine release in response to stress in the striatum,” said Mizrahi.

“Since the prefrontal cortex is involved in regulating striatal dopamine release, we wanted to understand what was happening in the step before the striatum.”

But, contrary to their expectations, the team did not find any major differences in dopamine release in the prefrontal cortex among the three groups of participants.

“Our findings of an increase in dopamine release in the striatum, but not in the cortex, show the complex brain regulatory systems in both people at high risk for psychosis and people with schizophrenia,” Mizrahi said.

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

from Psych Central News

Become a patron of The Carlisle Wellness Network. Show everyone that you think this service is worth at least a buck. Go to; and pledge one dollar per month and help improve the resources it takes to gather the articles you see here as well as create fresh content including interviews an podcasts. We only need one dollar per month from all of our patrons to give The Carlisle Wellness Network a bright furture in the health and wellness social media ecosystem.


Popular posts from this blog

PET Imaging Agent Can ID Good Candidates for Depression Drug

A new brain imaging agent could reveal — before any treatment has been prescribed — whether a patient with major depressive disorder (MDD) is likely to respond to a particular antidepressant, according to a new study published in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine. No such marker is currently available in clinical psychiatry.Escitalopram (Lexapro), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), can be an effective MDD treatment for some patients, but not all. During  positron emission tomography (PET) test, the tracer 11C-DASB targets the serotonin transporter protein (5-HTT) in the amygdala of the brain, a region associated with emotional processing.In the study, patients shown to have less 5-HTT protein were those who later experienced relief from escitalopram.“MDD is a heterogeneous disorder, which makes it extremely difficult to treat effectively,” said researcher Mala R. Ananth, a graduate student at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y.“Optimizing treatment is challenging a…

Reducing Alzheimer’s Stigma Could Enhance Research

A new study suggests ongoing research on Alzheimer’s disease may be challenged by the stigma associated with the disease. This concern comes from the results of a national survey which discovered people may be afraid to admit they have early stage Alzheimer’s because of fear of discrimination — especially potential limitations on their health insurance.Researchers say these fears can hopefully be overcome by the development of new policies to protect individuals. Nondisclosure of early symptoms that may or may not be Alzheimer’s hinders a individuals ability to obtain timely care. Additionally, a person may miss the opportunity to participate in clinical studies that discover potential therapies.The finding are the results of a national survey about what beliefs, attitudes and expectations are most often associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The survey results appear in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.“We found that concerns about discrimination a…

Hair Pulling, Nail Biting, Skin Peeling and Biting

All my life I’ve bitten my nails. It’s caused me a lot of trouble, especially with my bipolar mother who has always thought screaming and shouting at me (and often a smack when I was younger) would make me stop.At around 7 I also started biting and peeling the skin on my fingers which has caused a lot of social and health issues for me from being to ashamed to join in with prayers at school, to getting my fingers getting a fungal infection causing long lasting damage to my fingers.Soon after I started to pull out the tiny hairs on my legs during school assembles and by 12 I began to pull my eyebrow hair out.How can I stop doing this to myself? I don’t even realise I’m doing it half the time (I started biting the skin around my fingers just writing this and caused it to bleed a little). I’m afraid to bring this up with my parents because of how they have reacted in the past and I’m far too embarrassed to ask anyone I would typically trust. It has severally impacted how I interact with …