Science in Practice Articles

Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder: Two Disorders, One Mechanism?

It is known that patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder share clinical features such as cognitive dysfunction and psychotic symptoms. Cardiff University’s Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences investigated further into the biological features of these diseases.

They recently published research into the pathophysiological similarities between schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder (BD), looking specifically at cortical thickness and volume abnormalities of patients’  brains using MRI scanning. Participants of the study were patients diagnosed with either SZ or BD who are currently in remission and being treated as outpatients, along with control participants with no known disease.mri

Each patient received an MRI scan of their brain, and measurements were carried out to evaluate the thickness of the cortex and brain volume.

The study revealed that along with shared clinical features, there is also overlap in structural and functional imaging markers for SZ and BD. Results show that patients with SZ and BD show cortical thinning and loss of volume in the frontal and limbic areas of their brains compared to the healthy control group. The effect of this loss for SZ patients was a decrease in function, namely psychomotor speed and executive function. These changes were also associated with age of onset of disease for both SZ and BD.

These findings support previous studies which suggest common structural brain changes in SZ and BD and potentially indicates shared pathophysiological mechanisms in both diseases.


By Hannah Sutton


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