Health & Wellbeing

Nicotine shown to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia

Nicotine shown to reduce sympt...
A new study has revealed how smoking can normalize the impairments in brain activity associated with schizophrenia, unlocking an entirely new field of drug research to combat the disease
A new study has revealed how smoking can normalize the impairments in brain activity associated with schizophrenia, unlocking an entirely new field of drug research to combat the disease
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A new study has revealed how smoking can normalize the impairments in brain activity associated with schizophrenia, unlocking an entirely new field of drug research to combat the disease
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A new study has revealed how smoking can normalize the impairments in brain activity associated with schizophrenia, unlocking an entirely new field of drug research to combat the disease

For years researchers have noted an unusual association between smoking and schizophrenia. Across multiple studies it was identified that people with schizophrenia were much more likely to smoke than people without the disease. New research may have finally solved the mystery while also paving the way for the development of new, more targeted treatments for several mental health conditions.

A meta-analysis of worldwide studies conducted in 2005 definitively showed what many doctors had been anecdotally noting for decades. Schizophrenia patients were much more likely to become heavy smokers than than those in the general population. In fact some studies found over 80 percent of those diagnosed with schizophrenia were smokers. There were many social and psychological hypotheses proposed to explain this strange anomaly, but none were ever sufficient.

A new study published in Nature Medicine has not only revealed how smoking can normalize the impairments in brain activity associated with schizophrenia, but unlocks an entirely new field of drug research to combat the disease.

The study expanded on the recent discovery of a genetic mutation, labelled CHRNA5, that was identified as being associated with the cognitive impairments seen in schizophrenic patients. The scientists took mice with the CHRNA5 gene variant and discovered they displayed similar characteristics to those suffering from schizophrenia, such as an inability to suppress a startle response and an aversion to social interaction.

Using brain imaging technologies the research team discovered the mice with the CHRNA5 gene variant displayed symptoms of hypofrontality, a state of decreased blood flow in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Hypofrontality is commonly thought to be a prominent cause of many symptoms of schizophrenia, as well as being associated with other psychiatric conditions including Bipolar Disorder and ADHD.

As well as identifying the role this gene variant plays in causing hypofrontality, the study examined how nicotine acted to restore normal activity to the prefrontal cortex. The researchers found that within one week of daily nicotine dosing the impaired brain activity in mice with schizophrenic characteristics had normalized.

"Since the repeated administration of nicotine restores normal activity to the prefrontal cortex, it could pave the way for a possible therapeutic target for the treatment of schizophrenia," says Uwe Maskos, the main author of the study.

The authors of the study also believe the research may have broad applications for novel drug development across the mental health field.

Source: University of Colorado Boulder, Institut Pasteur (via Eurekalert)

10 comments
JasonCornish
Makes sense. Schizophrenics are notorious smokers. Self medicating. Knowledge of this trend is likely what sparked the investigation.
SuperFool
I don't smoke. it's bad for you. all the voices agree.
Tom Lee Mullins
Good for schizophrenia but bad for health? Perhaps a way to get the nicotine without having to smoke it to get it?
morongobill
A Camel a day keeps the straitjacket away.
jacksure
If this study had been about cannabis with the same results, we would have thousands of articles and politicians etc.. showing their lack of education by not understanding basic things like "Correlation does not imply causation" and using gateway drug theory kind of nonsense while telling us that smoking makes 80% of people schizophrenic.
rooman69
any vice can be bad, just moderate it
RicardoJoseMartinezRamos
And this is new because?
AdamJ.Smith
I should think that having schizophrenia, would make at least those who do smoke, want a cigarette.
robduckman
Patients have known this for many years; as is the case with caffeine; It is a great pity that clinicians do not listen to what these folk have to say about their experience.
amazed W1
Robduckman hits the nail on the head. We suffer universally from scientists not accepting that their theories are less real than reality, and that reality works from bottom up not from top down. It happens in every thing from astrophysics to plumbing. Peer group review by people afraid to step out of line just aggravates the situation. Remember how stomach ulcers were assumed to be stress related when clinicians pointed out that because they appeared in groups of people there must be an infective agent - which of course the established system eventually had to admit.