Unpicking the cause of schizophrenia is complicated, but the brain chemical dopamine (pictured are crystals of the chemical viewed with polarised light) is known to underlie one of the key characteristics of the disease: psychosis. That said scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how. Antipsychotic medication typically blocks receptors in the dopamine pathway. For many, this quashes some of the unpleasant symptoms – hallucinations, delusions, thought and movement disorders. For millions of others the drugs don’t work. Researchers recently scanned the brains of over 600 patients with schizophrenia and found that overproduction of dopamine is central to psychosis. They suggest that drug treatment could be more effective were it to tackle dopamine synthesis, rather than targeting the receptors to which dopamine binds once it has already been made.
Written by Brona McVittie
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