Schizophrenia researchers ‘find brain region behind social deficits’

Researchers at Columbia University’s Medical Center (CUMC) have made progress in finding out why social memory does not have the expected capacity among people with schizophrenia.

Along with a team consisting of experts from L’Université Paris Descartes, the researchers conducted a study which revealed a decrease of inhibitory neurons in an area of the brain that is connected to the memory function.

Previous scientific studies have indicated that schizophrenia originates from the brain’s hippocampus, but despite thorough research covering most of this specific brain area, they identified that a tiny area called CA2 had not featured in other studies.

Dr Vivien Chevaleyre, a lead author of the study, said: “Smaller and less well-defined [than] other parts of the hippocampus, CA2 was like a small island that was depicted on old maps but remained unexplored.”

As a result, the researchers decided to focus their attentions on this area.

They carried out numerous behavioural and electrophysiological experiments using mice as test subjects, and recorded the significant rise of inhibitory CA2 neurons compared to healthy mice.

Dr Joseph Gogos, professor of physiology and neuroscience at CUMC, and another lead author of the study, said: “Even the timing of the emergence of symptoms in the mice – during young adulthood – parallels the onset of schizophrenia in humans.”

It is hoped that the study’s findings will enable more research on schizophrenia linked to the CA2 brain region, which could help result in earlier diagnosis for anyone with the condition.

More information about the study is available in the journal Neuron.