In the first functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study of its kind, neurologists and psychiatrists at Columbia University have identified an area of the brain involved in the earliest stages of schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders.
Activity in this specific region of the hippocampus may help predict the onset of the disease, offering opportunities for earlier diagnosis and for the development of drugs for schizophrenia prevention.
Details of the findings were published in the September 7, 2009, issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.
In the study, the researchers scanned the brains of 18 high-risk individuals with "prodromal" symptoms, and followed them for two years. Of those individuals who went on to develop first-episode psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, 70 percent had unusually high activity in this region of the hippocampus, known as the CA1 subfield.