[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 30-Jan-2013
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Contact: Michael Bishop
michael.bishop@iop.org
01-179-301-032
Institute of Physics

Brain activity study lends insight into schizophrenia

Magnetic fields produced by the naturally occurring electrical currents in the brain could potentially be used as an objective test for schizophrenia and help to better understand the disease, according to new research published today.

A team of researchers from Plymouth and Spain have used the non-invasive magnetoencephalogram (MEG) technique to find two spectral features that are significantly different in schizophrenia patients compared to healthy control subjects.

Furthermore, they found that there were four spectral features in the brain signals of schizophrenia patients that changed with age compared to healthy control subjects, suggesting that schizophrenia affects the way in which brain activity evolves with age.

The study has been published today, Thursday 31 January, in the journal Physiological Measurement.

Schizophrenia is a serious psychiatric disorder, usually starting in late adolescence, which is characterised by a range of positive and negative symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, cognitive impairment, social withdrawal, self-neglect and loss of motivation and initiative.

It has no objective test and is currently diagnosed by clinicians who assess patients using a defined set of criteria.

Lead author of the study Dr Javier Escudero said: "At present, there is no blood, cerebrospinal fluid, brain imaging or neurophysiological test for schizophrenia in routine clinical practice. The diagnosis relies on the interpretation of symptoms and clinical history according to consensus criteria.

"The advent of an objective marker for schizophrenia would significantly facilitate the diagnosis and offer a better understanding of the neurobiological basis of the disease."

In this study, the frequency spectrum of the MEG background activity was analysed in 15 schizophrenia patients with positive symptoms and 17 age-matched healthy control subjects.

A range of spectral features from the MEGs were analysed to provide a holistic view of the brain activity of each subject. The MEG produced 148 values for each subject, which were subsequently divided into five different groups representing different parts of the brain, and were statistically analysed.

The researchers also investigated whether the spectral features could be used to distinguish between schizophrenia patients and the healthy controls. They showed that they were able to classify patients with 71 per cent accuracy.

"The long-term vision is to develop a low-cost, non-invasive and objective test to aid the diagnosis of this and other brain diseases. The magnetoencephalogram is able to provide very detailed information about the brain activity; however, it is expensive. Therefore, we aim to transfer these developments to electroencephalogram recordings in the future, as this technique meets those requirements of reduced cost, high availability and non-invasiveness," continued Dr Escudero.

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The researchers are from Plymouth University, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Centro de Tecnología Biomédica, Hospital Universitario San Carlos and University of Valladolid.

From Thursday 31 January, this paper can be downloaded from http://iopscience.iop.org/0967-3334/34/2/265

Notes to Editors

Contact

1. For further information, a full draft of the journal paper or to contact one of the researchers, contact IOP Press Officer, Michael Bishop:
Tel: 0117 930 1032
E-mail: Michael.Bishop@iop.org

Changes in the MEG background activity in patients with positive symptoms of schizophrenia: spectral analysis and impact of age

2. The published version of the paper "Changes in the MEG background activity in patients with positive symptoms of schizophrenia: spectral analysis and impact of age" (Javier Escudero et al 2013 Physiol. Meas. 34 265) will be freely available online from Thursday 31 January at http://iopscience.iop.org/0967-3334/34/2/265 .

Physiological Measurement

3. Physiological Measurement covers the quantitative measurement and visualization of physiological structure and function in clinical research and practice.

IOP Publishing

4. IOP Publishing provides publications through which leading-edge scientific research is distributed worldwide. IOP Publishing is central to the Institute of Physics (IOP), a not-for-profit society. Any financial surplus earned by IOP Publishing goes to support science through the activities of IOP. Beyond our traditional journals programme, we make high-value scientific information easily accessible through an ever-evolving portfolio of community websites, magazines, conference proceedings and a multitude of electronic services. Focused on making the most of new technologies, we're continually improving our electronic interfaces to make it easier for researchers to find exactly what they need, when they need it, in the format that suits them best. Go to http://ioppublishing.org/

The Institute of Physics

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Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine

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