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´╗┐Researchers take aim at schizophrenia's thinking problems

"Whether you have hallucinations or not," Dr. Lewis said, "if you have impairments in motivation and low energy, it's tough to get up and go to work in the morning and stay on a job."

with schizophrenia are brilliant, Dr. Lewis said. But the typical patient performs cognitively about 1 1/2 standard deviations below the population average. In IQ terms, that means the patient would have an IQ of about 80 20 points below the mean.

Scientists learned that the neurotransmitter dopamine sometimes known as the "reward" chemical in the brain was involved in the bizarre thoughts and voices that patients experienced, he said, because doctors knew that "amphetamines, which boost dopamine, could produce a psychotic state that resembles schizophrenia, and antipsychotic medications seemed to work by blocking dopamine receptors" in the brain.

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Schizophrenia involves hallucinations, delusions and cognitive deterioration. It can mean a lifetime of dependency for patients and in rare cases, it leads to frightening outbursts of violence.

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Richard Keefe, a Duke University Medical Center psychiatry professor who spoke at a schizophrenia conference here last year.

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Even today, though, these antipsychotic drugs are considered fairly blunt instruments. "Antipsychotic drugs are like using a sledgehammer" to reduce psychotic thinking, said Carol Tamminga, a psychiatrist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Today: Researchers take aim at schizophrenia's thinking problems

But what about brilliant schizophrenic scientists like John Nash, a Nobel Prize winner who is the subject of the Miu Miu Purse Australia book and movie, "A Beautiful Mind"?

In people with schizophrenia, Dr. Lewis said, the excitatory neurons seem to be underactive, so that the basket cells can never initiate that critical rhythm.

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That may cause two kinds of thinking problems, Dr. Sohal said it could make it harder for patients to screen out distracting information and focus on a problem; it could also make it harder for different brain areas to communicate with each other.

David Lewis, a noted schizophrenia researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, said that when he started in the field 25 years ago, "we didn't talk about cognitive impairments in schizophrenia. We thought of it as a disorder of hallucinations and delusions."

Second in a three part series.

And even though most people associate the disease with hearing voices and being afflicted with paranoid thoughts, many researchers believe the most important symptom to tackle is the cognitive challenges people with schizophrenia face.

There's a misconception that people Fendi Handbags Online Store

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Many people still believe that the hallucinations caused by the disease are the main cause of patients' disorganized thoughts, said Fendi Iphone X Case

The cognitive challenges people with schizophrenia face are the result of fundamental wiring and biochemical problems in their brains that scientists are still trying to unravel, and they are the biggest obstacle to being able to live a somewhat normal life, he said.

"That's totally reasonable," he said, "and shockingly wrong."

Dr. Sohal has shown the importance of the basket cells by using bursts of light to control their activity in the brains of mice. By inserting light reactive genes in mouse brains, he was able to excite the basket cells, which caused the mice's neurons to communicate more efficiently.

The schizophrenic brain is hobbled by three problems delusions, hallucinations and thinking difficulties.

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Tuesday: Violence by mentally ill is rare, but more frequent than in others

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If different parts of schizophrenia patients' brains are not communicating well with each other, another possible explanation Fendi Handbags Spring 2017

When someone is learning new information or performing a mental task, excitatory neurons in the frontal cortex fire, which stimulates the basket cells, causing them to briefly suppress the excitatory neurons, so that the next time they fire, they act in concert, creating a back and forth rhythm that is critical for thinking, said Dr. Lewis and Vikaas Sohal, a researcher at the University of California at San Francisco.

is poor cable connections between them.

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Dr. Lewis and others are focusing on a set of inhibitory neurons in the brain's frontal cortex that don't function normally in people with schizophrenia. These neurons, known as fast spiking basket cells, play a critical role in setting up a "thinking rhythm" in typical brains but don't do so efficiently in people with the disease.

And they affect only the so called positive symptoms of schizophrenia hallucinations and delusions but not the "negative symptoms," such as social withdrawal and depression.

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The thing to remember about those rare cases, Dr. Lewis said, is that "if you start out with an IQ of 160 and you lose 1 1/2 standard deviations, you're down to 145, and you might still be pretty well off in certain areas."

PG graphic: Schizophrenia and an overactive brain network(Click image for larger version)

Sunday: One man's journey into schizophrenia and how he copes

Those with the disease have trouble remembering the steps they must take to carry out a task. They struggle with staying focused and speaking coherently. They have difficulty planning for the future. And many of those symptoms show up years before the patients start hearing voices or suffering from delusions.

Dr. Lewis is exploring an experimental drug that is designed to boost the strength of the basket cells so they have a better chance of creating the proper rhythm. One early study showed the drug, MK 0777, improved patients' working memory, but "the drug is rather weak, so work is being done to take this molecule and substantially boost its potency."


And in some areas, like processing speed and visual memory, patients can score significantly lower and have special difficulty with those skills.

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