Some studies into the biology of manic depression and schizophrenia

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“Certain brain regions in people with major depression are smaller and less dense than those of their healthy counterparts. Now, researchers have traced the genetic reasons for this shrinkage.
“Brain-imaging studies, post-mortem examinations of human brains and animal studies have all found that in depression, a part of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex shrinks. The neurons in this region, which is responsible for complex tasks from memory and sensory integration to the planning of actions, are also smaller and less dense in depressed people compared with healthy people.”

‘How Depression Shrinks the Brain’


“Social isolation in youth may wreak havoc on the brain by disrupting a protein crucial to the development of the nervous system’s support cells, new research finds.
“A new study in mice finds that when the animals are isolated during a crucial early period, brain cells called oligodendrocytes fail to mature properly. Oligodendrocytes build the fatty, insulating sheathes that cushion neurons, and their dysfunction seems to cause long-lasting behavioural changes.
“Some of the myelination changes produced from isolation are also seen in patients with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, Corfas said, making the project promising for a number of neuropsychiatric disorders.”

‘Mystery of How Social Isolation Messes with Brain Solved’


“People prone to depression may struggle to organize information about guilt and blame in the brain, new neuroimaging research suggests.
“Crushing guilt is a common symptom of depression, an observation that dates back to Sigmund Freud. Now, a new study finds a communication breakdown between two guilt-associated brain regions in people who have had depression. This so-called “decoupling” of the regions may be why depressed people take small faux pas as evidence that they are complete failures.”

‘Why Some People Blame Themselves for Everything’


“Schizophrenia symptoms include memory and attention problems, hallucinations, disorganized thinking and behavior and delusions. Psychotic symptoms typically start in late adolescence and early adulthood. But researchers believe that developmental abnormalities they don’t yet know about also increase diabetes risk.
“One recent study – based on data from the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness Schizophrenia Trial – showed the prevalence rate of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that include abdominal obesity, high lipid and cholesterol blood levels and insulin resistance, is more than 50 percent in women and about 37 percent in men with schizophrenia.”

‘Diabetes Linked to Schizophrenia’


“Although less severe, patients with bipolar disorder share many of the same cognitive difficulties as patients with schizophrenia — including problems with identifying facial expressions, emotions and facial gender, according to a new study.
“Past research has shown that people with schizophrenia have clear cognitive deficits with respect to emotional perception.”

‘Bipolar, Schizophrenia Share Similar Emotional Perception Difficulties


“…researchers collected blood samples from 34 people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and analyzed them to study their DNA. Each of the participants belonged to families with a history of mental illness. The scientists were focusing on seeking out people with a NPAS3 mutation, they ended up finding one and carried out a series of blood tests on members of that family, including two parents and four adult children.
“Results showed that the mother who has schizophrenia, as well as her two children with the same disorder and another suffering from depression, all shared the same mutant genetic variation of NPAS3. The mutated version of the gene had one single difference in that an isoleucine took the place of a valine. The authors are not yet sure how this change affects the function of the gene, though.”

‘Gene Associated With Schizophrenia Identified




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Diabetes, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Some studies into the biology of manic depression and schizophrenia

  1. Jaya says:

    Just put a comment and it was gobbled up…

  2. Jaya says:

    I think it is v important for us to join in the collaborative journey to bring more kindness, compassion, and resilience into our world! The resiliency, courage and tenacity of character that you demonstrate is remarkable and I applaud you! “This is our choice in every moment – Do we relate to our circumstances with bitterness or openness” ~ Pema Chödrön

  3. Heather says:

    *sigh. please allow me to step up on my soapbox?

    cool. thanks 🙂

    People, besides from recognizing Bi-polar and other mental disorders/sicknesses/abnormalities does NOT mean that we can’t function like normal people. Yes, we think differently. Yes, we don’t always get the visual cues. Yes, we give WRONG visual cues.

    the list goes on and on…and some of these shared traits with schizoaffective/schizophrenic individuals? I’d probably have to say I can see it.. but for me? it’s like.. DON’T see me as a series of my ‘issues’. DON’T categorize me with the “Oh, she’s bi-polar.. she’s (insert deluded, informed, guessed at, etc.)” Am I? Do you know who I am? Do you know that I know how to cope without medicine? Without hurting myself or others? People are so much a sum of these parts.. and many MANY others. Just because you know of one Bi-polar with “xyz”, doesn’t mean the YOU”ll have “XYZ”, you could have “pdQ”! or you could have “Lmnor”. Symptoms. Diagnoses. UGH. EVERYONE is different. Usually the only SAME thing is your diagnosis. Which covers a LOT of ground!

    It makes sense that it’s a genetic link. I have a history of some very mentally ill people in my life, so I think I was half expecting that info anyways… because there’s significant info that shows a ‘predisposition’ towards alcohol addiction, drugs, etc has shown a genetic link.. so why not mental ‘illness’?
    and “One recent study – based on data from the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness Schizophrenia Trial – showed the prevalence rate of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that include abdominal obesity, high lipid and cholesterol blood levels and insulin resistance, is more than 50 percent in women and about 37 percent in men with schizophrenia”. umm.. have they looked at the medications and how the people metabolize them differently? Have you BEEN on Zyprexa? Lithium? Depacote? You’re GONNA gain weight. While fixing one part, they mess with other parts.. it makes me so mad. Do you live with the symptoms? or their ‘fix’, that breaks a lot of other things?

    I’m sorry.. *steps off soap box* I hate it when we, as categorized as bipolar, schizophrenic, depressed, etc, are put in the same clump and looked at like we’re freaks. Yes. some of us can ACT freakish and think squirrels are talking to them.. but that’s not ALL of us. Links are fine. Just, get to know the PERSON too. We are kind. We are loving. We are sensitive. We are people too, darnit!!

    I know that’s probably not the rant you were hoping to get from your assembled articles.. I know that’s not what you were saying. It’s like.. the $4million US study that shows that pregnant women’s center of gravity changes to adjust for a child. “really?? wow. thanks!” Our brains are different? “Who’d’a THUNK?!?” 😉

  4. Schiz Life says:

    You know, I’m happy that this research is being performed. Don’t get me wrong here, but it’s like, how many times do we have to come to the same conclusions about physical brain correlates in regards to thinking, genetics, and environment? I’d love to see more of this money going to something that has some kind of actionable advice. We can’t do much about the size of our dorsolateral prefrontal cortex… Thanks for compiling this information! It’s going to take me a while to go through it all fully!

  5. Gabriel... says:

    You’re welcome… and thanks for commenting. I understand what you’re saying and, to a point, I agree. But when I started blogging about my own recovery, and mental health in general, there really wasn’t much in the way of solid, university testing and research into the biology of what we’ve got.

    There was research into the pharmaceutical treatments, and a lot of time spent on observational research, but not the actual how-do-our-brains-work research needed to find cures and targeted treatments. Mostly because, seven years ago, that kind of research was impossible. In order to find out how our brains worked, using the level of technology researchers had access to even a decade ago, meant cracking our skulls open and poking us with pins.

    One of the first things I wrote here, back in 2006, was called “Frequently Unanswered Questions” because, for some reason, some reason people thought I was an expert in this stuff, and started asking questions. So I replied, including this:

    “The time where doctors have to rely on the person with MD having to describe symptoms in order to create a diagnosis is over. All of the brain sciences have been stuck in the pre-rubberglove era of medicine. This generation of FMRI, MRI and PET scans are allowing researchers to see MD in action, and they have already shown that MD’s have different brain makeups.”

    The new imaging technologies made their way into mental health research almost ten years ago, and the studies being published today are a direct result of that technology.

    Honestly, all of the cash being pumped into the system now, is not a lot. But this work is really just the first wave of what’s coming.

  6. Life is hard sometimes. Things go round in circles. Research has proven that parts of the body – including parts of the brain that aren’t used much atrophy – that is they shrink. It makes sense – it’s certainly what happens to the rest of the body. So do we have a chicken or an egg?

    We know that the symptoms of Bipolar and Schizophrenia and Depression make it hard to feel comfortable around others, to organize our thoughts when we’re not well, to feel motivated, and to varying levels they play havoc with our senses. Now I’m not saying that the illness process in our brains has no causal factors in this at all. But there are also good studies starting to show that deliberate use of sensory modulation as an intervention can be very effective; there is evidence that people who have more (or endure more) social contact generally maintain more social skills; that the more activity one does that at some point interested them or they felt there was a reason to do – the more potential there is to become motivated to keep going. Neurological studies are working to test whether use of games and activities on a regular basis that exercise the use of memory, scanning for information, concentration, tracking details, response times etc can improve these and whether that can then translate itself into how people function.

    I guess the big idea behind all of these things is what can be done to stimulate these parts of the brain so that we use them, benefit from them, exercise them, so that they don’t fall into disuse and atrophy. Perhaps there is part of it that will deteriorate and weaken, but evidence seems to indicate that the more we use what we have, the less likely we are to loose so much. There is research that can make you feel like there is no point trying anymore. It is good to see in someways in that it validates things that people often misinterpret as lack of effort.

    But remember that there is also research that demonstrates that there are reasons to fight rather than let the loss of pathology claim the atrophy of waste.

    • Gabriel... says:

      Hi Jill, sorry for taking so much time to respond… for a lot of reasons I’ve been taking a long break from this blog, and this post was my way of just making sure it didn’t die. I think I’m now starting the process of restarting.

      I understand what you’re saying, did the atrophy come before the illness, or did the illness cause the atrophy. Does the anxiety cause the social awkwardness, or does the lack of practise lead to anxiety? These are solid questions. But, at least with the physical changes, the researchers know they have to ask it now.

      I definitely do not look at this research and think that there’s nothing we can do, I actually find all of this research very comforting. The more research comes out proving there is a biology behind the illness, the more likely it’ll make the treatments more targeted, and designed specifically for the individual.

      Someone just developed a non-invasive method of treating heart disease. It’s a tiny wire that slips into a vein in your arm, it’s pushed into your heart and everything gets done with something the width of a human hair. Remarkable, not because it exists, but because only twelve-years ago a surgeon had to tear into your chest and physically manipulate your heart with her giant hands.

      There’s still not enough money going into mental illness research, but we’re still a lot closer today to the kind of non-invasive treatment we need than we were fifteen years ago.

      Thanks, Jill, for coming over and commenting…

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