Novel imaging approach shows both myelin and axonal changes in schizophrenia
Posted: September 23rd, 2013
A recently published study by Dost Ongur, MD, PhD, Co-Director for the Research Concentration Program, Clinical Director of the Psychotic Disorders Division at McLean Hospital, and an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, has found abnormalities in the myelin in the brain's white matter.
The research used two types of brain imaging: magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which measures the levels of particular chemicals in the brain; and magnetization transfer imaging, which detects changes in the level of myelin in the brain's white matter. Using these techniques, Dr. Ongur found evidence of abnormalities in both myelin and axons (nerve cell projections) in patients with schizophrenia, a serious psychiatric disorder. More specifically, they found reduced myelination of white matter pathways in people with schizophrenia, and also abnormal spread of a type of small molecule (called N-acetylaspartate) thought to be mainly contained within nerve cells.
"The notion that the brain in schizophrenia is characterized by abnormalities in connections between distant brain regions is not new, and imaging studies using diffusion tensor imaging have long suggested that the white matter where these connections travel is abnormal in this condition," Dr. Dost Ongur said in a journal news release. "However, we have not had the tools to determine whether the abnormalities are in axons, or the myelin sheath around the axons, or both."