The Hypotheses of Schizophrenia

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When one develops the psychiatric disorder known as schizophrenia, it disrupts regular cognitive abilities and conducts [1]. Normally, people aren’t diagnosed with the condition until their late-teens or throughout their adult life. Though, there are instances where children suffer from schizophrenia.

When the mental illness initially makes its appearance, there are two distinct set of symptoms:

  1. Positive Symptoms:
    • Delusions
    • Hallucinations
    • Unusual behavior
  2. Negative Symptoms:
    • Lack of activity
    • Loss of interest
    • Unresponsive

The biggest issue surrounding schizophrenia is so little is known about it. Though medical professionals and researchers are in the process of changing this, there remains a number of possibilities as to how the condition develops and why it effects people the way it does.

Due to this, theories have arisen from another of different sources – all with the same goal of trying to figure out what schizophrenia is.

In this article, we review all the hypothesis surrounding the mental health condition. At the end, we invite you to ask more questions.

The Origin of These Hypotheses

When medical professionals first looked into schizophrenia, their main focus was on behavioral and stress-induced events [2]. However, in more recent years, scientists have sought answers through research of biochemical complications [3].

The latter of studies is what’s mostly recognized due to the strong genetic factors associated with schizophrenia [4]. In fact, at least 50% of the time, people who struggle from the mental disorder have a relative who likewise is struggling.

The main purpose of these biochemical hypotheses is to discover why the neurotransmitter system within the brain is debilitated. Many focus on areas of a person’s brain where cognition and attention are faulty.

Since much of this information remains unknown, many theories have sprung about. Though nothing is conclusive, research has revealed there might be truth in each of the following hypotheses.

The Dopamine Hypothesis

Within the early days of schizophrenia research, it was discovered that drugs which blocked out dopamine had a therapeutic affect on individuals. In turn, this has led mental health professionals to believe people struggling with the condition have an overabundance of dopamine [5].

To further these beliefs, scientists have discovered much higher levels of D4 receptor bindings within post-autopsies in the brains of people with schizophrenia [6].

To top it off, too much dopamine triggered by drug use (particularly, amphetamines, has caused people to enter a schizophrenia-like psychosis [7].

The Membrane Hypothesis

When it comes to brain functioning, it’s vital that the phospholipid metabolism is works normally. Each of our nerves are greatly composed of phospholipid membranes and, in turn, affect the neurotransmitter receptors running through our brain [8]. These include both dopamine and NMDA receptors.

A number of studies link specific outside sources to that of disturbances within our neuron transmissions. The most notable being high levels of unsaturated fatty acids [9]. It’s suggested that due to this trigger, schizophrenia can develop.

The NMDA Receptor Hypothesis

When it comes to developing memory and cognition, the NMDA receptors within our excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate holds great significance. From research on drugs such as ketamine and PCP, it’s understood that NMDA receptors are disturbed. In turn, causing these users to experience hallucinations similar to schizophrenia [10]. Other research in drugs like clozapine has found similar brain disruption.

In effect, this theory critically points out issues that can further complicate the Membrane Hypothesis.

Due to this, it’s believed that one of the chief causes of schizophrenia is abnormalities with NMDA receptors. There are a number of studies which are finding success in reversing this dysfunction and benefiting this area of the brain [11].

The Single-Carbon Hypothesis

For some time now, it’s been recognized in the scientific community that dysfunctions within the single-carbon folate pathway can lead to schizophrenia [12]. One key area scientist continue to struggle with is attaching the response of the single-carbon folate pathway in relation to neuronal transmissions such as those mentioned in the above theories.

What we do know is this [13]:

  • Metabolic pathways within the brain provide carbon groups for a versatile amount of biochemical reactions
  • These reactions include synthesizing pruine and pyrimidine nucelotides as well as the methyl-donating amino acid methionine
  • People with schizophrenia often have a disturbed methonine metabolism

The Future of Understanding Schizophrenia

Research continues to push for advancements in these theories. Though they may be merely educated predictions, the significance of the education backing them up is important to understanding how schizophrenia works.

As science and medicine continue to progress, so will our understanding.

Your Questions

Still have questions surrounding the hypotheses of schizophrenia?

We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have further knowledge on schizophrenia or its respected hypotheses, we’d also like to hear from you.

We try to reply to each comment in a prompt and personal manner.

Reference Sources

[1] NIMH: Schizophrenia

[2] Dialogues: The diagnostic concept of schizophrenia: its history, evolution, and future prospects

[3] NCBI: Biochemistry and the schizophrenia. Old concepts and new hypothesis.

[4] HHS Public Access: The Role of Genetics in Etiology of Schizophrenia

[5] Frontiers in Psychiatry: The Role of Dopamine in Schizophrenia from a Neurobiological and Evolutionary Perspective: Old Fashioned, but Still in Vogue

[6] Dialogues: Postmortem studies in schizophrenia

[7] BioMed Central: Amphetamine-induced psychosis – a separate diagnostic entity or primary psychosis triggered in the vulnerable?

[8] NCBI: Cell Membranes

[9] NCBI: Polyunsaturated fatty acids and cerebral function: focus on monoaminergic neurotransmission.

[10] HHS Public Access: Ketamine-Induced Hallucinations

[11] Dialogues: NMDA receptor function, memory, and brain aging

[12] NCBI: The role of one-carbon metabolism in schizophrenia and depression.

[13] NIH: Metabolic Pathways

Featured Image by Johfra Draak (source)

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