News | Neuro Imaging | January 04, 2017

MRI Scans Detect 'Brain Rust' in Schizophrenia

New magnetic resonance spectroscopy technique offers better visualization of the biology of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses

brain rust, MRI, schizophrenia, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, ACNP, Fei Du

January 4, 2017 — A damaging chemical imbalance in the brain may contribute to schizophrenia, according to research presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Annual Meeting, Dec. 4-8 in Hollywood, Fla.

Using a new kind of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measurement, neuroscientists reported higher levels of oxidative stress in patients with schizophrenia, when compared both to healthy individuals and those with bipolar disorder.

"Intensive energy demands on brain cells leads to accumulation of highly reactive oxygen species, such as free radicals and hydrogen peroxide," according to the study's lead investigator, Fei Du, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In schizophrenia, excessive oxidation — which involves the same type of chemical reaction that causes metal to corrode into rust — is widely thought to cause inflammation and cellular damage. However, measuring this process in the living human brain has remained challenging.

Du and colleagues at McLean Hospital measured oxidative stress using a novel magnetic resonance spectroscopy technique. This technique uses MRI scanners to non-invasively measure brain concentrations of two molecules, NAD+ and NADH, that give a readout of how well the brain is able to buffer out excessive oxidants.

Among 21 patients with chronic schizophrenia, Du observed a 53 percent elevation in NADH compared to healthy individuals of similar age. A similar degree of NADH elevation was seen in newly diagnosed schizophrenia, suggesting that oxidation imbalance is present even in the early stages of illness. More modest NADH increases were also seen in bipolar disorder, which shares some genetic and clinical overlap with schizophrenia.

In addition to offering new insights into the biology of schizophrenia, this finding also provides a potential way to test the effectiveness of new interventions. "We hope this work will lead to new strategies to protect the brain from oxidative stress and improve brain function in schizophrenia," Du concludes.

This work was supported by grants from MH092704 (F.D.); NARSAD (F.D.); NARSAD (D.O.); MH094594 (D.O.); MH104449 (D.O.); Shervert Frazier Research Institute (B.M.C.).

For more information: www.acnp.org

Related Content

Novel Technique May Significantly Reduce Breast Biopsies
News | Breast Biopsy Systems | January 17, 2019
A novel technique that uses mammography to determine the biological tissue composition of a tumor could help reduce...
Digital Mammography Increases Breast Cancer Detection
News | Mammography | January 16, 2019
The shift from film to digital mammography increased the detection of breast cancer by 14 percent overall in the United...
Artificial Intelligence Used in Clinical Practice to Measure Breast Density
News | Artificial Intelligence | January 15, 2019
An artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm measures breast density at the level of an experienced mammographer,...
Machine Learning Uncovers New Insights Into Human Brain Through fMRI
News | Neuro Imaging | January 11, 2019
An interdisciplinary research team led by scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has successfully...
Mobile App Data Collection Shows Promise for Population Health Surveys
News | Population Health | January 10, 2019
Mobile app data collection can bring access to more potential clinical study participants, reduce clinical study...
Hypertension With Progressive Cerebral Small Vessel Disease Increases Cognitive Impairment Risk
News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | January 08, 2019
Patients with high blood pressure and progression of periventricular white matter hyperintensities showed signs of...
Artificial Intelligence Pinpoints Nine Different Abnormalities in Head Scans

A brain scan (left) showing an intraparenchymal hemorrhage in left frontal region and a scan (right) of a subarachnoid hemorrhage in the left parietal region. Both conditions were accurately detected by the Qure.ai tool. Image courtesy of Nature Medicine.

News | Artificial Intelligence | January 07, 2019
The rise in the use of computed tomography (CT) scans in U.S. emergency rooms has been a well-documented trend1 in...
Electronic Brachytherapy Effective in Long-Term Study of 1,000 Early-Stage Breast Cancers
News | Brachytherapy Systems, Women's Healthcare | January 07, 2019
Breast cancer recurrence rates of patients treated with intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) using the Xoft Axxent...
Brachytherapy Alone Superior Treatment for Intermediate-Risk Prostate Cancer
News | Brachytherapy Systems | January 04, 2019
Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) indicated a significantly different clinician and patient-reported late toxicity...
Breast Cancer Patients Have Less Heart Damage With Heart Drug and Trastuzumab
News | Cardio-oncology | January 03, 2019
Breast cancer patients who take a heart drug at the same time as trastuzumab have less heart damage, according to a...