New Schizophrenia Research Offers Hope


Gina Garippo

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Many treatment options are now available to help people with schizophrenia feel better and live more independent lives. And although there's no cure for schizophrenia, the future for improving existing therapies is bright. Every day, scientists and medical experts are working to discover better diagnostic and treatment methods for the illness. This research is paving the way so that one day we might find a cure.

Here's a look at the latest areas of research.

Searching for Genetic Links

Experts are working to identify how genes are involved in the development and course of schizophrenia. This includes pinpointing specific gene mutations that may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and studying how they change communication connections in the brain. Recently, researchers with a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) study discovered the way in which a genetic mutation produces aspects of schizophrenia. Genetic research like this is important because it serves as the basis for many potential treatment options.

Developing Targeted Therapies

Using identified gene mutations associated with schizophrenia, scientists are working to develop therapies targeted to treat people with these mutations. This will help tailor a person's medication to his or her specific genetics, increasing the likelihood of achieving a positive outcome and minimizing the chance for side effects.

Using Brain Imaging to Advance Treatment

Scientists are using state-of-the-art imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) to study the structure and activity of schizophrenia-affected brains. By identifying differences in the brains of people with schizophrenia, experts may be able to diagnose people earlier, before symptoms begin. Research has shown that early treatment can dramatically slow progression of the illness or delay its onset and development.

Studying Methods to Prevent Schizophrenia

As scientists begin to identify people at higher risk for schizophrenia and better understand how the illness occurs, they can also explore potential ways to prevent it. For example, researchers are studying the use of antipsychotics, supplements, and targeted therapy to prevent schizophrenia in people who are at high risk of developing the illness. A major study, sponsored by the NIMH, is currently under way to identify patients before they develop the full disorder. In addition, another major NIMH program, conducted as concurrent studies by two different teams, is under way to develop and test early-intervention strategies for people who have experienced their first psychotic episode. The aim is to change the trajectory of the illness toward increased recovery and improved functional outcomes.

Enhancing Use of Current Medications

The NIMH currently sponsors hundreds of clinical studies focused on advancing the treatment of schizophrenia. They include studying the effects of various doses of medication on symptoms, analyzing how cognitive behavioral therapy can benefit patients, investigating if add-on therapies can improve outcomes in many areas of the illness, and much more.

All of these research efforts offer hope to those whose lives have been touched by schizophrenia. To learn more about getting involved in a clinical trial, visit

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 5, 2017

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