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Thursday, December 7th 2006

Predicting Schizophrenia

Can we actually see physical changes in the brain with MRI in pre-schizophrenic patients? According to a study from the University of Edinburgh.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans have revealed key changes in the brain’s grey matter in a small group before they developed symptoms.

The finding suggests tracking these changes over time, combined with traditional assessments, could help doctors to predict illness.

They were tracking individuals who were “high risk” based on a family history of the mental disease. The MRI’s significantly improved their odds of predicting who would develop schizophrenia.

“Current methods are good for predicting who won’t develop schizophrenia but not who will.

“By combining brain imaging with traditional clinical assessments it might be possible to detect people who are at highest risk of the illness early.”

As members of a high risk group, each person in the study had approximately a 13% risk of developing schizophrenia.

However, the specific changes to the grey matter pinpointed by the researchers raised the risk to 60%.

Still whatever changes they’re identifying (it doesn’t say), while improving the numbers, don’t have a terribly good sensitivity for the disorder at 60%, do they? Here’s Wikipedia on Schizophrenia.