Schizophrenia types: Researchers discover a new subtype

Penn Medicine researchers are the first to discover two different neuroanatomical subtypes of schizophrenia after analyzing the brain scans of over 300 patients. The first type showed lower volumes of gray matter compared to healthy controls. However, the second type had volumes that were largely similar to those of normal brains. The results suggest that considering these differences could lead to more individual treatment options in the future.

New types of schizophrenia

Discuss mental disorders with a doctor

“Numerous other studies have shown that people with schizophrenia have significantly lower amounts of brain tissue. However, this is not the case for at least a third of the patients. “That said the senior investigator Christos Davatzikos, professor of radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine. “In the future, we won't say that a patient has a specific subtype, or abnormal pattern, rather than simply having schizophrenia. “

So schizophrenia is a poorly understood mental disorder that is typically associated with hallucinations, delusions, and other cognitive problems. However, the symptoms and responses to treatment vary widely from patient to patient. Attempts to compare the disease by comparing healthy and diseased brains have so far neglected this heterogeneity. According to Davatzikos, this has confused the research results and undermined clinical care.

researchers examine brains for different types of schizophrenia

After applying a machine learning method to the brain images, the researchers found that 115 patients with schizophrenia did not have the typical pattern of reduced gray matter volume. Historically, they have linked this to the disorder. In fact, their brains showed an increase in brain volume in what they call a striatum. This plays a role in the voluntary movement. When controlling the differences in medication, age and other demographic characteristics, the researchers were unable to find a clear explanation for the difference.

Possible treatment

young woman at the psychiatrist

“Treatments for schizophrenia work very well for a minority of people, quite well for most patients, and, unfortunately, hardly for some of them. Most of the time, we cannot predict this result. So it becomes a question of trial and error. Hopefully, now that we begin to understand the biology behind this disorder, we will one day have more informed, more individualized treatment approaches. ”Davatzikos is not yet ready to speculate as to why a whole subset of schizophrenic patients has a brain that is healthy similar.

“We're just confused here,” said the researcher. “What we do know is that studies in which all patients with different types of schizophrenia are grouped together when looking for associations with response to treatment or clinical measures may not use the best approach.” Future research, he said, will provide a more detailed picture of the study’s subtypes in relation to other aspects of brain structure and function, clinical symptoms, disease history, and etiology.

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