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MRI reveals early brain changes linked to schizophrenia

(PSYCHIATRIC TIMES) - Findings by a team in Scotland have opened the way to an accurate predictive test that might help prevent the onset of schizophrenia. MR scans have revealed changes in brain tissue in a small group of individuals before they developed schizophrenia.

The research, led by Dr. Dominic Jobs of the University of Edinburgh, suggests that looking at changes in brain structure over time could help doctors to predict whether a person who has a family history of schizophrenia will go on to develop the illness.

For 10 years, scientists at the university followed 200 young people who were at a high risk of developing schizophrenia because two or more family members had already been diagnosed with the illness. They analyzed MR scans of 65 of them, taken on average 18 months apart.

The team looked specifically for changes in gray matter, brain tissue made principally of neurons that transmit messages and help to store memories.

As a member of a high-risk group, each person in the study had approximately a 13% risk of developing schizophrenia. The MRIs revealed changes in brain tissue that increased this prediction to a 60% risk for some, thereby increasing clinicians' ability to determine if an individual had an elevated risk.

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