Researchers at the National Institution of Health have just discovered some good news in relation to schizophrenia, a chronic disabling disease that affects one percent of the population and involves hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, hearing voices, and social withdrawal.
Researchers have found there are three brain circuits involved with schizophrenia, and one brain circuit acts through an intermediary brain circuit like a volume control knob turning up and down the brain activity. This finding suggests schizophrenia sufferers may have a problem or a malfunction among one of these three brain circuits.
Researchers have discovered a molecule known as Neuregulin-1 that starts a sequence of events. It affects dopamine, which in turn acts as a volume control knob in turning up and down the intensity of brain electrical activity. Dopamine also affects the glutamatergic system, which becomes supercharged and generates electrical pulses. However, when dopamine binds to certain receptors the glutamatergic cells slow down, or when they bind to other receptors resting glutamatergic neurons speed up. One researcher said, “This implies that schizophrenia might involve an imbalance.”
Researchers also found some people suffering from schizophrenia had variations in their genes for Neuregulin-1 and its receptors, which also leads them to believe an imbalance may be a key factor in solving the puzzle. Theoretically, however, researchers note schizophrenia could be related to any malfunction in the brain, but knowing Neuregulin-1 is involved means researchers can now look at new schizophrenia therapies that target the Neuregulin or glutamatergic systems.