Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Brain part that creates delusions uncovered

Delusions are false beliefs that people cling on to, and are often found in psychological diseases, such as schizophrenia. To uncover the brain part that is responsible for these delusional beliefs, scientists compared the brain activity of schizophrenics with healthy people, while subjecting them to tests. They found that dopamine, one of the brain's chemical messengers, was overactive, which makes it harder to discriminate between what is true and what is false.

The participants were tested for something called a delusion of reference. That means they hear or read something, and decide whether a given statement is referring to them, or not. About 60 statements were prepared by the scientists. Some personal, some generic. The participants were asked whether they felt a statement was personal, or not. Personal statements were prepared from interviews, performed prior to the study. About 40 statements were generic and non-personal, and divided between ordinary statements ('she collects CDs') and statements that involved emotion ('everybody hates her').

Brain activity
When participants, either schizophrenic or healthy, said that a given statement was about them, a certain brain area, part of the network that is affected by dopamine signalling, was found to be active. This was especially true for schizophrenics. In addition, activity in this particular brain area was also found in schizophrenics after they decided a given statement was not personal. They also claimed that several generic statements were about them. According to the scientists, this indicates it is hard for them to what is relevant for them, and what is not.

By uncovering what part of the brain is responsible for clinging on to false beliefs, and distinguishing true and false, we may be able to improve treatment of schizophrenics. Brain therapies targeted towards the dopamine system that was found to be overly active during the delusion of reference test may ameliorate the symptoms. It also helps us to unravel the causes of schizophrenia, which is marked by a wide variety of symptoms, and is actually a truly wondrous disease of the mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment