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Friday, May 8, 2015

Researchers identify potential cause of schizophrenic symptoms

Unusual neural oscillations -- brain waves -- have long been associated with schizophrenia. The oscillations, called delta waves, are similar to slow oscillations seen in normal brains during sleep, but in schizophrenic brains, they occur during wakefulness. The connection between these oscillations and schizophrenic symptoms, particularly cognitive deficits such as memory impairment, has long been unclear.
When the delta frequency light was turned on in the brain egion called thalamus, researchers observed disruption in the working memory of rats. When it was turned off, the rodents were once again able to perform working memory tasks.
"The oscillations produce an artificial signal that jams normal communication," author says. "The part of the thalamus that is supposed to carry information about working memory couldn't do the task at all with these sleep-like delta waves. We suspect the abnormal delta oscillations seen in patients with schizophrenia are producing a similar jamming of normal signals."
Delta waves require a specific type of ion channel called a T-type calcium channel. These channels are of particular interest because they are one of the few types of ion channel implicated in schizophrenia by genetic studies. The next step, author says, is to figure out what kind of agents could be used to block these channels.…/2015-05/bu-bri050715.php