Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Risk (Factor) Assessment

Insight into where in the brain schizophrenia originates

27 February 2022

Risk (Factor) Assessment

Schizophrenia is a complex disorder meaning that many different genes and environmental factors contribute to its development. But, for many of these risk factors, how and why they influence the condition is a mystery. Take SAP97, for example. Mutations to this protein result in a whopping 40 percent increase in schizophrenia risk, but the protein’s normal function, let alone its role in schizophrenia, were unknown. Scientists studying rats have now discovered the SAP97 mutations cause a dramatic increase in cell communication in one of the brain’s memory centres – the dentate gyrus (the C-shaped structure in this section of rat hippocampus). In turn, this excessive activity impairs the animals’ contextual memory (rats were unable to recognise out-of-context objects). Both the dentate gyrus and impaired contextual memory have been implicated in schizophrenia, suggesting the findings have relevance to humans and may inform the development of future schizophrenia treatments.

Written by Ruth Williams

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