Skip to main content

mental health mondays :: schizopanacea?

last week, while i was stuffing my face with pierogi [monday night has seemingly become pierogi night at our house] and watching electoral returns, i had not one but several people call my attention to one of the 'trending' pieces of news on facebook: major new research had been published that pointed to a new theory as to the cause of schizophrenia.

clearly, that's pretty exciting, because schizophrenia is like the shit cadillac of mental disorders. it's the one most likely to land you in a hospital or in prison. it's the one most likely to wreak havoc with your life. and it's the one that's hardest to treat, because all we've learned about it over decades of studying is that we know nothing about it. in fact, it wasn't so long ago that we posted a piece here on mental health mondays that looked at numerous possible explanations for what schizophrenia is and how it develops. what emerged in the last ten days is just one more of those theories, which is not to deride it, but to state the truth: being new might be exciting, but that doesn't guarantee that it's a breakthrough. determining that takes time.

you can read the research for yourself right here, in the magazine in which it was originally published. since it's in a scientific journal, much of the writing is technical, but it boils down to the fact that our own brains may be unwittingly responsible for making us schizophrenic. one of the many, many hobbies that your brain has is gardening. it prunes itself of synapses that it isn't using so that everything stays nice and orderly. as we pass from adolescence into adulthood, it engages in quite a substantial trim and the research that was just released indicates that it may end up eradicating certain synapses that it needs to protect itself from malfunctioning. afterwards, things get unbalanced and signalling starts to go awry, which we experience as the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

in its favour, this new theory has a number of positives:


  • it's scientific. that may sound ridiculously obvious, but you'd be surprised how many theories about disease we continue to entertain with no scientific background.
  • it's huge. there were 64,000 people from 22 countries involved in this study, half of whom were schizophrenic. the chances of the findings being anomalous are minimal. 
  • part of it is well-established. we've known for years that schizophrenics have a reduced number of synapses in the brain, but the link between this observation and the condition was unclear. 
  • the "pruning" of synapses does roughly coordinate with the most common age for the onset of schizophrenia, implying a possible causal link [but not proving it]
  • the pruning function appears to be unique to humans, which might explain why we're the only animals who develop schizophrenia


the bad news is that now we have to do more research. and most of that research won't be in order to build on what's just been released, but to repeat it. that's because the single thing that separates good from bad science is that, when you use the same conditions, you can produce the same results. so even if this science is golden, it will probably be many years before we find a drug that will address the concern. until that time, we're likely stuck with more or less what we have now: drugs that address the symptoms but not the disease. [which means technically that we treat schizophrenia in the exact same manner that we treat a head cold.]

i feel like i'm the bearer of bad tidings here, but i'd prefer to be thought of as the great manager of expectations. this research is a big deal, but it's principally important to the work of other researchers, at least for the time being. if we want to see results that stem from this work, we need to make sure that governments and private corporations are funding further research along these lines. that's the tricky bit. 

Comments

as long as you're here, why not read more?

dreamspeak

ok, so i've been lax about posting here. i apologise. there are reasons. i don't know if they'ree good reasons, but they include:


i've had a lot of work to do, which is nice because i'm a freelancer and things tend to slow down in the summer, so the more work i get now, the less i have to worry about later [in theory].i started watching the handmaid's tale. i was a little hesitant because i didn't actually like the novel very much; i found it heavy-handed and predictable. the series relies on the novel for about 80% of its first season plot but i nevertheless find it spellbinding. where i felt that the novel beat readers with its politics, the series does a better job of connecting with the humanity in the midst of politics. i'm dithering on starting season two because i am a serial binger and once i know damn well that starting the second season will soon consign me to the horrors of having to wait a week between episodes. i don't know if i can han…

music review :: bad sector :: kosmodrom

there are obvious advantages for musicians who work within genres that are alaredy established. most people choose specific genres they like and find other music that fits within it. bands that are not easily placed in any one category either because they change their sound radically (witness the first ten years of current 93), or because they are simply difficult to define, like italy’s bad sector.

bad sector’s lone member, massimo magrini, is an outsider’s outsider in the music community. a forty-year old computer scientist and engineer, he builds many of the instruments he uses. His music reflects the cool scientific detachment one would expect from his background combined with the eccentric originality that comes with nought but a passing acquaintance with popular and underground music tropes.

since their inception in 1992, bad sector have released some awesome albums (“polonoid” is a personal favourite, although “the harrow” and “plasma” are likewise excellent.) the sound is a…

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another…