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Psychosis symptoms linked to impaired information spread in the brain

Altered white matter decreases conscious access to information, contributes to delusions

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: Altered white matter limits the brain's conscious access to information, potentially contributing to delusions and other psychotic symptoms of mental health disorders. view more 

Credit: Berkovitch et al., JNeurosci 2020

Altered white matter limits the brain's conscious access to information, potentially contributing to delusions and other psychotic symptoms of mental health disorders, according to new research published in JNeurosci.

Your brain is always active, but you are not always aware of it. Accepted theory holds you do not become consciously aware of something until non-conscious brain activity in sensory areas spreads to a larger network of neurons all over the brain via long-distance white matter tracts. Dysfunction in these tracts may explain the delusions characteristic of psychiatric disorders like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Berkovitch et al. used MRI to compare the white matter structure and consciousness threshold of healthy adults, bipolar disorder patients with and without psychotic symptoms, and schizophrenia patients. The consciousness threshold corresponds to how long a visual stimulus must be presented on a screen to be broadcasted across the brain and become conscious - the shorter it is, the better the conscious access. Thresholds were significantly increased in patients with psychosis compared to those without. Across all participants, lower thresholds correlated with greater white matter connectivity in long distance tracts. These results mean altered white matter connectivity does not induce psychosis directly, but may through its effect on the consciousness threshold.

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Manuscript title: Disruption of Conscious Access in Psychosis Is Associated With Altered Structural Brain Connectivity

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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