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Schizophrenia & Brain Maturation

November 21, 2013

Some mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, seem to involve overzealous brain maturation.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Do some brains grow up too much? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Patrick J. Lynch and C. Carl Jaffe)

Many mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, typically set in during adolescence and young adulthood. Neurologist Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health wants to know if overzealous brain development is part of the picture. He notes that in adolescence, our brains don’t mature by getting bigger. Rather, they prune away excess connections, like a sculptor carving a stone.

JAY GIEDD

What we noticed, particularly for schizophrenia, was that all of the brain changes that we see in adults, we could have predicted, by saying “what if the teen brain changes went in the right direction, but just too far?”

HIRSHON:

Giedd says this probably isn’t the sole cause of schizophrenia, since there are signs of predisposition before adolescence. But it’s a very consistent symptom.  Understanding exactly why this happens – and what it does – could lead to new kinds of early intervention. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.