Study: Switchboard in brain could mean new treatments for schizophrenia

As schizophrenia continues to become a more prevalent illness in our society, researchers are still puzzled when it comes to what officially spawns the mental disorder.

As schizophrenia continues to become a more prevalent illness in our society, researchers are still puzzled when it comes to what officially spawns the mental disorder. While prescription medications such as Geodon continue to advance in terms of managing symptoms, new studies are being implemented every day to continue efforts in crafting solutions for this troubling ailment. One examination recently explored whether analyzing a certain region in the brain could be the key to unlocking secrets, as well as potential new forms of treatment for schizophrenia.

In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers have begun putting more emphasis on studying the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) region of the brain. This thin layer of nerve cells lined along a center located deep inside the brain relays information from the body to the cerebral cortex, which enables a number of essential functions, including thoughts, movements, language, emotions, memories and visual perceptions. The researchers believed that these TRN cells act as a switchboard-like operating system, monitoring the stream of information being relayed from the thalamus region to the cortex.

To analyze how this "switchboard" processing mechanism works, as well as what disruption to TRN cells could mean for mental illness, the scientists studied patterns of TRN cell movement in mice during sleep and arousal, two states that prompt different information processing needs. Using multi-electrode recordings to study the TRN cells, researchers discovered that sleep and concentration affected the cells' ability to send inhibitory signals to the thalamus in different ways. When the mice were asleep, TRN cells were extremely active, whereas activity was significantly decreased when mice were attracted to food.

When the scientists began implementing optogenetics with mice, a technique that introduces light-sensitive molecules into nerve cells, it allowed them to essentially control the firing patterns of visual TRN cells within the animals with flashes of laser light. Switching around their ability to effectively focus and concentrate was basically a replication of how information transmission within the brain becomes scattered and unreliable in those with schizophrenia.

Dr. Michael Halassa, a professor at New York University and lead investigator in the study, believes that his team's research might be crucial for unlocking the mystery surrounding mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, and the way they alter thinking and emotions.

"Now we may have a handle on how this tiny part of the brain exerts tremendous control over our thoughts and perceptions," Halassa said in a statement. "These results may be a gateway into understanding the circuitry that underlies neuropsychiatric disorders."

Know your signs and symptoms
As research continues to progress and help trace the origins of what causes schizophrenia, currently the most effective way to provide treatment to someone suffering from a mental illness is to recognize the signs of schizophrenic behavior and seek out help sooner than later. Symptoms typically begin to develop in a person's during their mid-to-late 20s, and primarily work to impair cognitive ability that drastically impacts thinking and bursts of emotion.

Delusions are some of the main indications that someone could be diagnosed with, and generally pertain to false beliefs that are not based in reality. According to the Mayo Clinic, 80 percent of people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia experience delusions. Other signs may include hallucinations, disorganized thinking, constant unpredictability and total social withdrawal.

Prescription medication can help patients and doctors effectively manage symptoms of schizophrenia. Geodon is a great example of medication that's proven to comfort those with mental illness, and be sure to try using a Canadian online pharmacy whenever you need to buy Geodon.