Researchers have suggested that the development of schizophrenia may be possible to determine from a particular pattern in peoples' brains.
Reporting in the journal Nature Communications, scientists from Yale University in Connecticut used fMRI images of people that had a high risk of psychosis, and found that there was an increase in activity in a network responsible for several brain functions.
According to the website Psychology Today, the team collected fMRI images from people who had been diagnosed with psychosis but had not yet been treated with antipsychotics. Brain images from a group of healthy volunteers were used as a control.
Using machine-learning algorithms, the team were able to see a pattern in the brains of the psychosis patients, called hyperconnectivity, specifically in the superior temporal cortex (STC) of the brain. Notably, those with early signs of schizophrenia displayed less communication between the STC and other parts of their cortex.
“The hope is that this biomarker can be used in second-stage screening after the identification of other risk factors for schizophrenia,” Tyrone Cannon, professor of psychology and psychiatry and senior author of the paper, said in a statement.
Being able to identify psychosis earlier is important for treating schizophrenia, which usually starts affecting people in their late teens or twenties. Symptoms of schizophrenia include changes in behavior, delusions, and hallucinations, leading to muddled thoughts.
“The team said the findings now need to be validated with larger patient samples, but suggested that the study represents an important step toward the development of translational tools in early diagnostic identification, as well as personalized treatment approaches for initial treatment in first-episode schizophrenia,” Psychology Today noted.
Earlier this year, a study suggested that being creative could increase the risk of schizophrenia by as much as 90 percent. And last year, another study said that nearly 80 percent of the risk factor for schizophrenia was genetic.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 21 million people are affected by schizophrenia, with sufferers being two to three times more likely to die early than the general population. But it is treatable, so finding signs of it early on could be very important in aiding treatment going forwards.