NAMI Article: Trying to unlock the secrets of schizophrenia
By Dina Al Qassar
Intern, National Alliance on Mental Illness
Schizophrenia continues to confound the minds of scientists and researchers alike. Affecting 1 percent of the human population, the culprit behind this illness is still unknown. There has been research investigating the causes of schizophrenia, and although scientists have known that it runs in families there isn’t any evidence indicating that the causes are purely genetic. The belief is that both genetic and environmental factors play equal parts in the development of schizophrenia.
There have been speculations about the causes, including but not limited to: prenatal factors (viral infections during the pregnancy, malnourishment, stress); environment factors (emotional, physical, or sexual abuse); abnormalities in the brain structure (irregularities in the size of the prefrontal and temporal lobes), neurotransmitter imbalances (high levels of dopamine and low levels of serotonin), etc… yet there aren’t any definite links between a single factor and the disease.
Due to the unique nature of schizophrenia it is very hard to find the causes of the illness. Recently however, a significant pattern emerged between schizophrenia and inheritance that was revealed by looking at the way schizophrenia is more prevalent in some families; this spurred the genetic investigation of the matter.