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Creating delusion to better understand it

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In a new study, researchers induced delusions in schizophrenic individuals to better see their brain activity then compared those results with a control group. The scientists are hoping to better understand the mechanism behind schizophrenia so it can be better diagnosed, treated and controlled.

“We studied a type of delusion called delusion of reference, which occurs when people feel that eternal stimuli such as newspaper articles or strangers’ overheard conversations are about them,” said Dr. Mahesh Menon, Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). “Then they come up with an explanation for this feeling to make sense of it or give it meaning.” Up to two-thirds of people with schizophrenia have this type of delusion.

The scientists wanted to see if the overactive firing of dopamine neurons in specific brain regions is involved in converting neutral, external information into personally relevant information among people with schizophrenia. If so, that could be what leads to the delusions. “We wanted to see if we could find a way to ‘see’ these delusions during Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanning,” said Menon.

Participants were put into and MRI scanner and were read 60 statements made up of individualize, personal statements and very generic, impersonal statements. Both groups recognized that the personal statements were about them. However the schizophrenic group was just as likely to believe the generic statements were about them as well. Researchers were able to see what part of the brain was active during these delusions. The areas were the cortical midline structures as well as regions like the insula and ventral striatum. These areas are associated with the brain’s dopamine regions which are involved in introspective and emotional processing.

Source: ScienceDaily, Biological Psychiatry

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