Schizophrenia - Early Intervention Targets Grey Matter

Professor Jeffrey Lieberman discusses the importance of early treatment for schizophrenia. Early intervention may delay loss of grey matter, which is symptomatic.

Schizophrenia is a disease that affects people when they are coming into the prime of their life-their late adolescence and early adult years. And it is a progressive disease that doesn’t go away unless it is treated. Ultimately, if it’s not treated, a person will suffer disabling affects from it. From which they can never recover. So treatment is essential. The best chance to treat the disorder and stop it from being progressive is to treat people early – at the beginning of the illness, or as close to the beginning as possible. Now one of the measures or the markers of the progressive effects of the illness is the fact that when you do imaging studies in the brain, it has been demonstrated that over time as the illness progresses, people lose part of their grey matter in their brain. Grey matter is the segment of the brain that contains the synaptic connections and the cells, the neurons, that form the neural connections in the brain. So if you lose these in the context of reduced grey matter volume, this means you’re losing part of the substrate of your brain and your ability to function. In a study that we recently completed, we found that if you treat people in their first episode of schizophrenia, that you can prevent the loss of grey matter in the brain and consequently the progression of the illness. Moreover, in the study we found that some medicines, the newer medicines in particular, or some of the newer medicines worked better than the older medicines, the first generation drugs, at preventing the loss of grey matter and the progression of the illness. And this, we think, is really the key, given our current medications for schizophrenia. That is to start early and continue treatment to prevent any recurrence.

schizophrenia, treatment, intervention, early, grey, gray, matter, brain,

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