The nerve fiber connecting a big toe to the brain is not like a solid wire or a continuous piece of thread. There are spaces where nerve fibers meet others and signals are passed from one to another on their way to the brain. These spaces, called synapses, are filled with tiny amounts of chemicals. For the electrical signal to jump across the spaces, perhaps switch to another track, and continue its journey to the brain, the chemicals must change from one side of the gap to the other.
The chemicals involved in such chemical processes are called neurotransmitters. The amount and type of chemicals at the synapses control the transmission of information. From extensive research, it is known that when those chemicals are not right, or get mixed up in some way, the transmission of signals goes haywire, affecting the way the brain reads the signals it receives. When a signal is scrambled because of chemical changes, the brain may interpret the information wrongly, perhaps even in an inappropriate or bizarre fashion.
The reason these chemical changes occur is not known, but many scientists believe that these alterations of normal body chemistry produce the characteristic abnormal thinking and feelings of schizophrenia.The pre frontal cortex is a part of the brain that allows us to make future plans and that is involved in such highly abstract areas as personal responsibility, and self control. This part of the brain goes through the most change.
Teenagers face special risks like drugs and alcohol that can hijack the brain to the chaos of schizophrenia that often strikes in our adolescence years.There are several different brain regions that are responsible for thinking, memory and emotions. The fact that so many regions have been malfunctioning has lead researchers to investigate a part of the brain which coordinates their operations.At the beginning of adolescence the pre frontal cortex goes through a burst of growth. As neurons in a teenage brain reach out to connect to other neurons, much as they do throughout childhood, they either grow stronger or they can wither away. The ones that stay are harder and robust. “Psychosis,” a common condition in schizophrenia, is a state of mental impairment marked by hallucinations, which are disturbances of sensory perception, and/or delusions, which are false yet strongly held personal beliefs that result from an inability to separate real from unreal experiences (http://www.
nimh.nih.gov/publicat/ schizoph.htm).In the normal brain, waves of sound falling on the ear, travel as electrical and chemical pulses to the hearing part of the brain, the auditory cortex. Generally surges of signals travel to the thinking region of the brain. Scientists believe that in psychosis the thinking regions fail. Neurons misfire in random and chaotic ways, creating sounds that have no connection to the outside world.
The result is that the perception of sound does not exist. Thus, people that have schizophrenia, hear abnormal, make believe people or voices.Brain Scan of Schizophrenia patient (right) and normal brain (left).
The normal brain shows more activity in the frontal cortex. Researchers theorize that psychosis is caused in part by problems with a chemical in the brain called dopamine, one of the brain’s neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are molecules that send messages from cell to cell across a tiny gap called the synapse. Dopamine acts by stimulating receptors on the neuron as its target, setting off cascades of electrical and chemical reactions.In the psychotic brain, the reasons that scientists still are trying to understand is why the levels of dopamine surge , overstimulating the receptors, and wreaking havoc with the brain’s ability to send clear and accurate signals to cause hallucinations in people with schizophrenia.
Dopamine in particular has long been suspected of playing a major role in schizophrenia (Huffman, K., Vernoy, M.,& Vernoy, J., p.493).The second major theory for schizophrenia involves possible brain damage. The entire surface of central nervous system is bathed by a clear, colorless fluid called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The CSF is contained within a system of fluid- filled cavities called ventricles.
The ventricles are shown in blue on the following midsagittal section of the brain (http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/vent.html).Researchers have found larger cerebral ventricles (cavities that contain cerebrospinal fluid) in some people with schizophrenia(Raz & Raz, p.93-108). Thus when these got larger something had to get smaller.
Theories say that the pre frontal cortex, since it’s in its growing stages, got smaller as the pressure from the ventricles got larger. Thus, this is why we see more adolescents developing schizophrenia. The Brain (http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/vent.gif)Anti-psychotic medications relieve psychosis by reducing the impact of dopamine on the neurons. By clogging dopamine sensitive specters with diminished neuron stimulation, psychotic systems usually lessen and often disappear.
As the turn of the century has dawned, researchers are looking more into the possible causes of schizophrenia, and ways to successfully treat people with it. The outlook for people with schizophrenia has improved over the last 25 years.Although no totally effective therapy has yet been devised, it is important to remember that many people with the illness improve enough to lead independent, satisfying lives.
As we learn more about the causes and treatments of schizophrenia, we should be able to help more patients achieve successful outcomes. Once a man said, “These days people seek knowledge, not wisdom. Knowledge is of the past, wisdom is of the future.” Let’s look ahead and find a cure for schizophrenia.ReferencesAbramovitz, M. (2002). Schizophrenia.
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& Wickens, R. (1997). Psychology. (4th ed.
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T. (1997). Schizophrenia: The Facts. Oxford Press.