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Brain Regions Associated with Schizophrenia

The significant cognitive deficits that are often associated with Schizophrenia suggest that the frontal cortex, including the orbitofrontal, dorsolateral, medial frontal and prefrontal cortices, are affected by the condition, which is a finding that has been supported by imaging studies.  Hippocampal volumes are smaller in people with Schizophrenia, which may explain some of the memory impairments that are common in this disorder.  The limbic system, including the mesolimbic dopaminergic circuit, is involved in Schizophrenia and is thought to contribute to many of the psychotic symptoms.   The basal ganglia are also affected in Schizophrenia, and this may explain states such as catatonia and other movement disorders that can occur in individuals with this condition who have never taken any medications.

The brain continues to change and develop throughout life, which is a process called Neurodevelopment.  Adolescence is a particularly important phase of neurodevelopment, especially for the frontal cortex.  The fact that Schizophrenia tends to become apparent towards the end of adolescence, and that it is associated with impairments of frontal lobe functions, has led researchers to consider that this condition may be a result of problems with frontal lobe development that precedes adulthood.   However, the precise nature of such problems remains unknown. 

The fact that many people with Schizophrenia had soft signs of neurological impairments years before they became ill, even as early as their childhoods, suggests that there may be problems with neurodevelopment that begin well before adolescence.   First-degree relatives of individuals with Schizophrenia have also been found to have some of these neurological soft signs, especially abnormal smooth-pursuit eye movements (the eyes do not track objects properly that they are seeing).  It is unclear what is the significance of these soft signs, or what causes neurodevelopment to worsen even further in individuals with the illness.

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Genetic Causes

Neurotransmitter Systems