Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that prevents a person from being able to tell reality from hallucinations and paranoia. Though several theories as to the cause have been looked at, most scientists have been unable to find a real cause for the mental illness. New research, however, may point to illness before the person was born.
Scientists know that increased dopamine activity in the brain is a common factor among those with schizophrenia, but they have not been able to find a clear case for the illness. A new study led by Lauren Ellman of Temple University in Philadelphia may be the first to point to a clear cause for, and hopefully prevention for, schizophrenia.
Ellman and her colleagues found that how a pregnant woman’s body reacts to illness such as the flu, viruses and other infections could trigger abnormalities to develop in their unborn child’s brain. Looking at blood samples taken from pregnant women during the 1950s, the researchers found a trend among those who had schizophrenic children.
When ill, some of the mother’s bodies began creating a protein called interleukin-8. Presence of this protein was linked to structural brain changes among the children diagnosed with schizophrenia. Generally, interleukin-8 is related to inflammation during illness
“Now, it appears that the damaging effects to the fetus are related to these maternal responses to infection during pregnancy rather than to the infections themselves,” Ellman says in a statement.
The results of this study have been published in the journal Schizophrenia Research and sheds new light on how schizophrenia may come to be. – Summer, staff writer
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